Monday, October 4, 2010

Was Charlotte's namesake biracial?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 4, 2010 at 2:15 PM

When I first saw the famous portrait of Queen Charlotte, our city's namesake, I, too, commented that she looked like the product of an interracial coupling. But, I shrugged it off without question for two reasons: 1) I don't really care if someone is mixed-race (most of us are mutts of some sort) and 2) I know how history works sometimes (it's often written by those in power).

Because history is spun by those in charge, it's sometimes recorded in such a way to make those in power seem better than they actually were. And, let's face it, for most of humanity, history has looked favorably on the lighter races while marginalizing, and at times even demonizing, the darker ones.

That's part of what makes an installation on the fourth floor of the new Mint Museum so interesting. Artist Ken Aptekar has taken the queen's portrait and added a little commentary, like, "BLACK WHITE OTHER," and "OH YEAH SHE IS."

Here's a snippet from Qcitymetro.com:

In his reinterpretation of Queen Charlotte, which he titled “Charlotte’s Charlotte,” Aptekar examines her immigrant status (She was not British born), her youthful vulnerability (At age 17, she was said to have been dominated by her mother-in-law), her love for botany (She founded the Kew Gardens in London), and, yes, rumors of her African lineage.

When Aptekar was commissioned to create the work, presidential candidate Barack Obama – America’s own racial Rorschach test -- was making headlines of his own.

“I thought, ‘This is a project made in heaven,’” Atpekar said in a recent interview. “Here we were about to have…the first mixed-race president in the history of the country, and here is this queen of England… It doesn’t get any whiter than England… It was a great opportunity to explore what it means to have a leader, or head or state, of mixed race.”

Read the entire article, by Glenn Burkins, here.

Here's a video about the piece and the queen:

Rhiannon "Rhi" Bowman is an independent journalist who contributes snarky commentary on Creative Loafing's CLog blog four days a week in addition to writing for several other local media organizations. Additionally, she's on the steering committee for the Greater Charlotte Society of Professional Journalists. To learn more, click the links or follow Rhi on Twitter.

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