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Nancy Dawson and Nedra Bonds Revisit Quindaro’s Past

The project by the duo involves the use of locally made quilts and the performance of an original play.

If Da Dirt Could Talk, a Rocket Grant-funded project by award-winning fiber artist and quilter Nedra Bonds and playwright Dr. Nancy Dawson, is designed to interpret the lives of former enslaved Africans who built Quindaro. This area of Kansas City, Kan. was an African American, post-Civil War community. The project by the duo, both natives of Quindaro, involves the use of locally made quilts and the performance of an original play.

Bonds has taught quilting and presented talks to women around the world. Her quilts, illustrating the lives of people from Quindaro’s past, will be hung as a backdrop for the play. Bonds says, “Quilting adds a personal and authentic touch, documenting historic figures. Fabric is warmer than paper or canvas and people relate to their own experiences with family quilts. In addition, there is a strong cultural memory with quilts, in the African American experience, that includes connections with the Underground Railroad.”

Music is Spirit Theatre Company rehearsing Stories From Da Dirt, by Dr. Nancy Dawson.

“Quilts connect us with women’s issues, with home, comfort, struggle and the desire to make something new, from something old. Quilts were used to help fund the abolitionist and the suffrage movements. They provided a vehicle where poor folk could contribute without making a sound.” ~ Nedra Bonds, fiber artist

Dr. Dawson, a former professor of African-American studies, is also the artistic director of Music is Spirit Theatre Company. Dawson’s play “Stories From Da Dirt,” based on her extensive research on slavery, will be performed in fall 2013 for school children in the Old Quindaro Cemetery, where Dawson’s runaway slave grandmother Elizabeth Thompson is buried. 

“My grandmother was a midwife on a plantation in Liberty, Mo. She ran away, crossed the river and settled in Quindaro,” Dawson says. “The play is about freedom seekers like her and the stories of other enslaved women.”

A major performance is also scheduled for Juneteenth (June 19th) in 2014.