Zina Mitchell


Zina Mitchell

I had a baby at the age of 14. The first thing out of my mama’s mouth - you got a baby now, you need start making money. So I started hanging out, running away from home, and hanging with people, and the more I hung with the different people the more I learned different hustles. By age 17 I was stripping. By age 18 I was selling drugs… because I was the type of person, you took care your family, you did what you had to do, your children weren't supposed to work for nothing. So here my road down incarceration began.

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Artist Statement

“Zina’s Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs” is inspired by the distinct ceremonial attire created by people of African descent from New Orleans, debuted on carnival morning and worn during ritual neighborhood processions. Resistance and self-actualization are hallmarks of the tradition. The attire is characterized by narrative beaded images, feather design art and aurora borealis Swarovski rhinestone design embellishments.

The suit is the culmination of positive visioning, reflections and artistic brainstorming focused on experiences that include: rights-of-passage, loss, regret, triumph, redemption, sorrow and joy. In other words, the human experience.

The end result not only meets the tradition standard of being “pretty,” it tells Zina’s story through African symbolism, metaphors and narrative beadwork. The story is told primarily on the shoulder stole and the feathered headdress, referred to as a crown. Zina was involved in every aspect of the suit’s creation. After all, it is her story. Initially, I was going to wear the suit. But, during the process, it was mutually decided Zina should wear the stole and crown because they depict her STORY. As Queen Cherice, I wore the dress and shoes which serve as the foundation for the suit and the collaboration between the three of us. Also, suits are created to be worn in the community and not debuted on a mannequin. Wearing it serves to put good medicine/Juju in it for Zina, but also for those who are fortunate enough to interact with it by viewing it during the exhibit run.

The suit includes ancient Adinkra symbolism, a butterfly beaded by the Flag Boy Isaac “Ike” Edward, a Christian Cross, a caged bird charm, cowrie shells, padlock, star, flame, crystal teardrop among other images of significance.

The suit will be ceremoniously placed on the mannequin by Zina herself at the exhibit opening, following a ceremonial procession. Thus, bringing the traditions of a uniquely New Orleans community-based culture to the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University.

- Cherice Harrison-Nelson

Zina’s Trials, Tribulations and Triumphs, 2018