BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A forest full of blue glass displayed on the front lawn of Cambridge museum honors a tradition originating from a continent over.
On Saturday, the History Cambridge Museum on Brattle Street celebrated their temporary public art exhibit: "Forgotten Souls of Tory Row," which features several trees of blue-tinted bottles on the front lawn of the Hooper-Lee-Nichols-House.
WBZ's James Rojas was touring the exhibit, as the Museum Executive Director Marieke Van Damme described the project and what it stands for.
"It's a tree, it is black rebar with blue bottles tucked on the ends of the rebar— it's a tradition brought over from West Africa to the southern state of America by enslaved people. They represent their spiritual practice and spirits that you can trap— good and bad. A lot of the traditions enslaved people brought over were taken away by the enslavers, but this is a tradition that survived," Van Damme said.
The outer and inner circles of the blue bottle trees were designed by Pam Goncalves, the head artist at Black Coral Inc., a non-profit artist collective. According to their mission statement, Black Coral aims to use "ancient knowledge for healing, working with indigenous people nationwide to find solutions for modern problems through nature, art, and spirituality."
The ceremony held on Saturday, marked the opening of the exhibit in June, with musical performances, poetry readings, and speeches among the trees.
"There were also a number of people enslaved down on plantations in the Caribbean that the big mansions up and down Brattle Street, they owned people down there. So, it's a history that we need to talk about and need to remember," Van Damme said.
According to the museum, though Massachusetts was the first American colony to sanction human bondage under the Body of Liberties law, some Cambridge families made their wealth through enslaved labor in Jamaica and with servants in their homes. Brattle Street, known as Tory Row, had plenty of homeowners like this— including the owners of the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House Joseph and Rebecca Lee, who were complicit in the slave trade.
The exhibit from Black Coral not only brings that history into the limelight, but it celebrates the very culture that endured the bonds of slavery. The History Cambridge Museum doesn't shy away from the past either, acknowledging that their headquarters is stationed on traditional ancestral homeland, sacred to the Nipmuc and Wampanoag peoples.
On Thursday, artists from Black Coral will host an online conversation about "Forgotten Souls of Tory Row."
WBZ’s James Rojas (@JamesRojasNews) reports.