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Our Mother's Gardens

This photo series depicts two sisters, swallowed up in their mother’s clothing. The bright colors, hair beads, and florals–artifacts of a Black girl’s childhood–suggest a level of playfulness and joy expected from young girls; but the girls' eyes tell a different story.

Laila and Alyssa Abbott, photographed by Chineze Okpalaoka

These photos are the first in an ongoing body of work that will explore the adultification of Black girls: Black girls who are made to grow up too fast and too soon, to take on responsibilities that exceed what is normal for their age. Black girls who are taught early to forego pleasure and joy in the name of sacrifice, to see sacrifice as a rite of passage to womanhood, and to sometimes inherit their mothers’ grief as their own.

Alyssa Abbott (left) and Laila Abbott (right), photographed by Chineze Okpalaoka

“Our laughter is a holy hymn: It preaches sermons disrupting service making servants of our grief Beneath the surface of these smiles —a Bethesda of tears; bittersweet They belong to our mothers for whom this kind of joy was only a dream.”

— Chineze Okpalaoka

Our Mother's Gardens is one of several installments of a long-term project, For the Love of Black Girls — a series of visual narratives depicting the nuanced, yet all too familiar realities of Black girlhood. Using portrait photography, alongside cinematic video portraits, collage work, visceral prose, and nostalgic, dream-like set designs, the project aims to provide a restorative lens through which we can reflect upon the sometimes artless realities of Black women and girls.

For the Love of Black Girls is an invitation to reimagine our personal histories; an observation of what it means to feel at home in one’s body; a reconciliation of the childhood selves we have either outgrown or been forced to abandon. This project will explore themes such as rites of passage, beauty standards, and female relationships through experimental approaches to the image-based arts. #FortheLoveofBlackGirls

Laila and Alyssa Abbott, photographed by Chineze Okpalaoka

Thank you to everyone who helped make this project possible!

Story: Black Girl Miracle

Creative Direction: Chineze Okpalaoka and Dana Belizaire

Photography: Chineze Okpalaoka

Models: Laila Abbott and Alyssa Abbott

Studio: The Que Studio

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