Art Installation Explores The Racial Inequality Of Sleep And Offers Reparations

Dec 6, 2019
Originally published on December 6, 2019 9:48 am

When you walk through the installation, “Black Power Naps/Siestas Negras” you’re automatically sucked into a world of relaxation. There are six embellished beds and a sound track playing where the Afro Latinx artists Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa explain what the concept of sleep means to them in a deep soothing voice.

In the installation, Acosta and Sosa are exploring “the sleep gap,” the correlation between sleeping and social inequality and how people of color get less of it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2014 that 34 percent of Hispanics and 45 percent of black Americans get less than seven hours of sleep. Poor sleep contributes to health complications. 

“For me, the sleep gap is really inherited generational trauma,” said Acosta on Sundial. The artists hope to give back to minority communities that have lost sleep through guided meditations, soft beds people can lay on and sounds scapes of dreamy acoustic and therapeutic vibrations. 

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Black Power Naps/Siestas Negras is located at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College. Acosta and Sosa joined Sundial to discuss the installation and how people of color view sleep and relaxation.

This excerpt of the conversation has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: What does the sleep get mean for you personally and how do you experience that?

ACOSTA: Ultimately, I am the child of immigrants. I also live my life as a trans queer black person. I deal with a very overworked schedule. I know this is true for myself and a lot of people in my generation, as well as my parents, my grandparents, et cetera. For me, the sleep gap is really inherited generational trauma. It is living in our bones. It is passed down through us. Black Power Naps is really addressing that directly, so establishing a place where we can find rest and reparation is key.

Let's go into the exhibit. Take me in. How do you have it set up and what is it you're trying to accomplish?

SOSA: So when you first walk in, there is an altar that has goddesses of sleep and rest. As you come in, you're going to see that it is a sensory calming bath. The light, the sound, the way that everything is installed is designed to be calming and create a sound curtain. So what you feel more than anything is that the sounds of the city are interrupt, that you can't hear the city.

Let's get to one of the pieces. You have a bed that's made of dried black beans. Explain that to me. How is that set up and what does that mean?

The black bean bed was designed with panic attacks in mind. And whenever you're having a panic attack, which you know, is one of the results of being exhausted and overworked, you often need to feel secure in your body, to feel a weight on your body. We wanted to have a bed in the installation where you feel you can go under the earth. And so both of us being Afro Latinx and Caribbean, we wanted to work with a staple, which is black beans. The black beans allow you to actually be completely submerged. When we're coming with this inheritance and idea of not resting then this is really healing.

This is a very unusual experience to have an art space. You are fully submerged, including your face in a material that is organic. It absorbs the excess water that sometimes gets deposited in the limbs after a long day. This bed is really popular with the senior population because they come and put their legs in and it does acupressure on your feet and it massages out the tension. 


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