THE KUDZU PROJECT
We are a group of knitters who live in Charlottesville, Virginia. You've probably heard of Charlottesville as the town where on August 11 and 12, 2017 the KKK, neo-Nazis and other white supremacist groups converged to violently protest the planned removal of statues of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson from public parks. Inspired by artist Dave Loewenstein's image "Defunct Monument I - Racism," depicting a vine covered statue, an idea was born - could we cover the Confederate statues with knitted kudzu?
Welcome to The Kudzu Project.
The Kudzu Project
Knitters of all levels participated in The Kudzu Project. Here you will find our inspiration, patterns, images of our installations and a plan for undertaking The Kudzu Project in your community.
The inspiration for The Kudzu Project came from a drawing by artist Dave Loewenstein titled "Defunct Monument I - Racism." It was created in spring 2017 for the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture's national action, Revolution of Values. The USDAC reposted Dave's image following the violent white supremacist marches in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, 2017.
The Kudzu Project was born out of a desire to realize Loewenstein's vision in yarn. More than 30 knitters from the mid-Atlantic region contributed to this guerrilla knitting installation.
Kudzu (Pueraria montana) is a non-native invasive plant in the pea family that was introduced to the US in 1876. It grows quickly, and can climb up to 100 feet, covering and smothering existing vegetation along Southern roads and railways. Blanketing abandoned cars and buildings, kudzu has been called "the vine that ate the South."
Kudzu covered ruins elicit romantic notions about the past. Similarly, the romanticized ideology of the Lost Cause, claimed that noble Confederate generals and soldiers fought the Civil War to protect states' rights rather than the institution of slavery. Statues erected to valorize Confederate soldiers promoted this mythology while also serving to intimidate African American citizens. They belong to the racist past and are no longer relevant to our society.
CHARLOTTESVILLE'S CONFEDERATE STATUES
Charlottesville's equestrian statues of Robert E. Lee and Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson were erected during the Jim Crow era in parts of town that were predominantly African American. By marking these areas as bastions of the South's Lost Cause, Confederate statues played a role in the gentrification of Charlottesville and the displacement of African Americans from urban commercial districts and neighborhoods.
Statues of Jackson and an anonymous Confederate soldier stand outside Albemarle County Courthouse, indicating that this civic space is aligned with the values of the Confederacy.
We might ask ourselves whether these statues serve any useful purpose today, or are they relics of a bygone era that we could remove from public places for the sake of unity and social justice for all?
SHOULD THE STATUES REMAIN?
Charlottesville City Council resolved to remove the equestrian statues of Lee and Jackson but have been embroiled in a lawsuit preventing this from happening. Some local citizens prefer to keep the Confederate statues in place and adding some kind of context to interpret them.
Should the statues remain in place, we suggest another solution - plant kudzu around them and allow it to grow over and eventually obscure them. This will provide much needed context for understanding their present-day relevance.