July 12, 2011
written by Helen Anderson, apprentice & photographs taken by Patricia A. Montgomery, Master Artist
Apprenticeship Program

image one

Machine quilting – Recalling the Journey quilt

 My “Recalling the Journey” quilt represents my interpretation of the route captured Africans took from their homeland on the way to being sold into America’s slavery system.

laying out blocks

Helen laying out the blocks

The color blue symbolizes water. Captured African’s travelled in slave ships to America in a trans-Atlantic journey known as the Middle Passage. My use of pre-civil war fabrics represents their destination, America.

During this creative process, my wounded heart was transformed into a sacred heart as I sewed beige fabric strips into blocks. The color beige symbolizes the long walk across the Africa continent to the Atlantic Ocean and the Middle Passage journey. In spite of the fact that Africans were forced to make this journey, the creative process was empowering and it healed my heart. The anger I experienced was replaced with forgiveness.

As I was working on the blue water blocks, I sensed a shift, a healing that took place within my heart. I noticed the anger and rage I had been experiencing around the Middle Passage had faded. The African bodies that were thrown into the Ocean and those who choose to join them in the blue water grave were truly at peace, and so am I.

The Sankofa bird, known as an Adinkra symbol, means “go back and fetch it.” This symbolic meaning acknowledges and reminds me to not forget that our ancestors survived the hardships of the Middle Passage. Their strength, courage, and determination are the back bone that shapes African Americans.  


 designing the block

 Designing the water side blocks


sewing block

Helen sewing the blocks


 detail of quilt

Design Detail of completed blocks with design image of Sankofa bird

Thirty Two – twelve inch blocks were created to represents the African (land) and American (water) sides of this quilt. The color selection of fabrics signifies the movement, texture and construction of the contemporary log cabin block.

sankofa bird

 Working on the Sankofa bird with wonderunder and Batik fabrics


Helenworking on bird

Helen working on the Sankofa bird

The designing, preparing, and creating of the Sankofa bird was fun, exciting, and exhilarating. I learned a fusing technique, the placement of color and fabric, the manipulation of movement, with push and pull giving direction and flow to my piece. As I continued to stay open to new ideas, techniques and learning, it put me in touch with my feelings. Patricia would keep asking, “How does this make you feel” as she would add, subtract, or change color or fabric or the print. I could feel the difference of each addition or subtraction. My eyes and all my senses are open and expanding.