Video by Jade Wilson
"The will of the father"
May 31 to June 1, 2019 | Dorothea Dix Park
2105 Umstead Drive, Raleigh, NC
The Black On Black Project presents “The Will of the Father,” a performance piece that looks at some of the slave history of the Dorothea Dix property.
Description of the performance piece:
This land we're now celebrating as Dix Park was once the site of the Spring Hill Plantation, home to Theophilus Hunter, Sr., one of the fathers of the city of Raleigh.
Hunter was a Representative to the House of Commons, the first Judge of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1771, the county's first surveyor and its first tax assessor. He was also one of seven Raleigh City Commissioners in 1795.
The earliest marked grave in Wake County is that of Hunter's, who died in 1798. His family owned the land until 1864 and, according to Ernest Dollar, director of the City of Raleigh Museum, the family is "woven into the DNA of Raleigh."
Theophilus Hunter, Sr. laid the groundwork for Raleigh's future, but what is his complete legacy and that of the Spring Hill Plantation?
Long before the first patient was admitted to what was then called Dix Hill Asylum in 1856, the land owned by Hunter and his family housed slaves. At his death, at least 61 slaves were bequeathed to his family.
"The Will of the Father" is a performance piece meant to remind us of what once was and how that affects us today. The piece, including an original monologue by Johnny Lee Chapman, III, speaks to part of Hunter's legacy and how it affected the lives of the African-Americans. Choreography and movement from Anthony “Ay-Jaye” Nelson Jr. invokes the spirit of the souls bequeathed in Hunter's will who were recognized by first name only. Nelson weaves through the 61 white, wooden markers that represent each soul in the will.
As we celebrate the opening of Dix Park, let's remind ourselves of those souls. Let's remember the generations of slaves who toiled and tilled the land. Let's remember those souls who labored to build the hospital, the hospital that would not admit them.
The title comes from the "property" that was in the Last Will and Testament of Theophilus Hunter, Sr., and how many slaveholders justified slavery, in part, using the bible and suggesting it was the "will" of God the Father.
“The Will of the Father” | #WillofFatherRaleigh
Performance/video runtime: Approximately five minutes
Monologue: Johnny Lee Chapman, III
Choreography and movement: Anthony “Ay-Jaye” Nelson Jr.
Wooden markers: Designed by Mike Williams, created by Stephen Hayes
Performance coordinator: Myra Weise, Proxemic Media
This project was part of SEEK Raleigh, is a temporary public art program that engages artists to use unique, non-traditional interiors, structures, and outdoor spaces for site-specific, performative, and participatory installations and experiences.
Live Performance photos
Photos by Caroline Cockrell