Skip to content

Grandma’s Lament: Nomkhumbulwane Fled

Grandma’s Lament: Nomkhumbulwane Fled

Jazzmen Lee-Johnson
Grandma’s Lament: Nomkhumbulwane Fled, 2019
Silkscreen on paper
19 x 11 inches.

Not currently on view

About the Work

Jazzmen Lee-Johnson describes Grandma’s Lament as an “Afro-futurist sci-fi graphic novel that chronicles a present-day dystopia, an underwater past, and an astrological plastic future.” The series collapses multiple timelines to tell the story of a West African family. In one timeline, the family is kidnapped from West Africa into the atrocities of the trans-Atlantic slavery. Lee-Johnson depicts this period by alluding to Rembrandt’s The Three Crosses print from 1653. In the elder artist’s work, the subject is Jesus Christ on the cross, flanked by the two thieves who were crucified with him, and the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, weeping and supported by the Evangelist. A mass of Roman soldiers on horseback, along with grieving citizens, surround the crosses. A beam of light, representing God’s light from heaven, pierces the darkened sky to envelope the crucified figure of Christ. Rembrandt’s frenzied cross-hatching and a shadow threaten to engulf a whole scene of the figures. This visual treatment transforms the scene from an image of pathos and sacrifice to one of darkness, doubt, and chaos. Lee-Johnson uses similar cross-hatching and shadow techniques to depict the violence and tragedy inflicted upon the family and other Africans by slave-traders. The second timeline shown in Grandma’s Lament, however, features a spotlight effect reminiscent of the light from heaven shown in The Three Crosses. Corollary images with beams of light show the family’s joy and bliss amidst a life in their native lands uninterrupted by the horrors of colonialism.