Multi-channel Video Installation by Nailah Jefferson and Laurie Sumiye

11’ x 7’ x 15’

Recycled plastic grocery bags, cat’s claw vine cuttings, aluminum screen, PVC piping, video projectors, speakers

Sanctuary is an immersive, work-in-progress video installation delving into memory and tides of urban renewal in communities of color from New Orleans and Honolulu. In the displacement of lives impacted by ocean-level rise and tourism, "invaders" change the make-up of local neighborhoods. Invasive species, such as the ubiquitous Cat's Claw vine (Dolichandra unguis-cati), represent creeping climate change and gentrification. 

Cat's Claw is one of the most destructive vines found in New Orleans, named after its three claw-like hooks. The design of the floating structure is inspired by New Orleans’ shotgun houses, which has a long history in the city housing its African American community. 

The artwork was created for the Rising: Climate in Crisis Residencies at A Studio in the Woods, during a 6 week residency in 2022-2023. Artists were invited to face the severity of the climate crisis and be agents of change to guide our collective understanding, response, and vision as we shape our shared future.

The use of recycled grocery bags reflects fragile themes of home and belonging, as well as concern for waterways gravely impacted by single-use plastic. The balance of nature and humans in a city where much is being lost to climate change is debated through the stories of local Black New Orleanians reminding audiences of Joy integral to evolving our relationship with places and people that are disappearing.

Work in progress was presented at The Small Center for Collaborative Design, in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 8 - June 3, 2023. Mahalo to the amazing staff at A Studio in the Woods, ASITW alum and artist ally Jan Mun, Ann Yoachim and Jose Cotto from the Small  Center, who helped make this project possible.

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