Requiem for Charleston

Copied Lava Thomas, Requiem for Charleston, 2016, tambourines, pyrographic calligraphy on lambskin, acrylic discs and braided trim, overall: 76 × 77 × 2 38 in. (193.0 × 195.6 × 6.0 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Nion McEvoy, 2017.4A-Y, © 2016, Lava Thomas

Artwork Details

Requiem for Charleston
Not on view
overall: 76 × 77 × 2 38 in. (193.0 × 195.6 × 6.0 cm)
© 2016, Lava Thomas
Credit Line
Gift of Nion McEvoy
Mediums Description
tambourines, pyrographic calligraphy on lambskin, acrylic discs and braided trim
  • Abstract
Object Number

Artwork Description

Requiem for Charleston honors the nine men and women who died in a shooting on June 17, 2015, inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Tambourines with black lambskin heads are inscribed with the victims' names, while the drums of others are made of polished black acrylic that reflect the faces of viewers, suggesting the collective tragedy of the attack. Artist Lava Thomas chose to memorialize the dead with tambourines because of their cultural and historical significance, particularly their role in African American musical traditions-- including protest songs of the civil rights era. In the days following the Charleston massacre, tambourines, cymbals, and bells rang throughout the community as a call for unity and support. Here the instruments hang motionless, in silent tribute to the lives lost.


Related Posts

A photograph of a figure looking at Requiem for Charleston at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Seeing Things05/11/2018
The other day, my colleague, Libby, and I walked through the museum in search of an artwork we could talk about. And though each artwork has a story to tell, Lava Thomas's "Requiem for Charleston," the artist's response to the church massacre at Mother Emanuel in 2015, spoke the most to us, in a quietly powerful way (if such a thing is possible).