Tag Archives: Nnenna Freelon

Nnenna Freelon Takes the ‘Clothesline Muse’ to the National Black Theatre Festival

1 Aug


eurweb logo

The Clothesline Muse celebrates African American culture, women’s history, the Civil Rights struggle, and the emerging labor movement of the day, through original live music, emotive dance, brilliant visual art and projection.

Jun 28, 15 by EURweb editor/BJ

jamaican laundress by ekua holmes, the cloethesline muse, nnenna freelon

*(Durham, NC)— Multiple GRAMMY nominee and jazz great Nnenna Freelon will bring her theatrical project, The Clothesline Muse, to the 14th biennial National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, August 7 & 8.

The Clothesline Muse celebrates African American culture, women’s history, the Civil Rights struggle, and the emerging labor movement of the day, through original live music, emotive dance, brilliant visual art and projection.  The story is told through the complex relationship between old-school and new cool.

In this dramatic and poignant tale that explores the clothesline as a metaphor for our community lifeline and its ties to our environment,  Grandma Blu, an aging washerwoman and storyteller, desperately wants to share her clothesline legacy, part of the culture of the Old South, and her wisdom before she passes on, with granddaughter Mary Mack.

Mary is a modern online woman who believes that speed and technology hold the keys to success. She is both a feminist and futurist wanting nothing to do with yesterday’s washing drudgery and stories.

Their relationship and the social traditions it represents and the history it tells, are told in The Clothesline Muse, a journey through laughter, tears, dance, story, song, and struggle.

Six-time Grammy nominated jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon performs the role of Grandma Blu/The Clothesline Muse and is both storyteller and songstress, bringing her unique and stirring vocals to the self-penned original music.  Cloteal Horne plays the role of Mary Mack.

When touring this show, there is generally community outreach in each market, something Nnenna does at every possible opportunity. From children’s shows to college, community and other school visits, there are workshops, conversations, Q & A’s and other interaction to ensure that the messages portrayed in the performances serve as social, historical and cultural conduits.

The residencies are funded by one of twenty prestigious grants provided by the Community Fund of the National Performance Network (NEFA).

The National Black  Theatre Festival offers a wide range of theatrical performances including dramas, comedies, musicals, choreoplays and multimedia. Festival goers will be able to choose from more than 130 performances of new works and Black classics performed by professional Black theatre companies from across the country and abroad. Shows are presented at multiple venues throughout Winston-Salem. Tickets are sold separately for each show and can be purchased on www.nbtf.org

Read more at http://www.eurweb.com/2015/06/nnenna-freelon-takes-the-clothesline-muse-to-the-national-black-theatre-festival/#rg8kxVMa0E0Rmlh7.99


27 Mar


Lumina News Logo



Clothesline connects culture to community

By Pam Creech

The clothesline is a deep-reaching metaphor for the ties that bind families, communities and women together.

Grammy-nominated vocalist Nnenna Freelon; her daughter, visual artist Maya Freelon Asante; and choreographer Kariamu Welsh joined forces to create “The Clothesline Muse,” a multi-media theatre project that emphasizes the clothesline’s role in women’s history. The story involves a grandmother who teaches life lessons to her granddaughter.

“The grandmother tells the granddaughter stories,” Freelon said. These story prompts are articles of clothing; the stories are told through song, dance and visual art. By performing her original songs, Freelon plays the role of the muse — Grandma Blu. Cloteal Horne plays Grandma Blu’s granddaughter, Mary Mack, who is helping her pack for a retirement home.

“Every article of clothing has a story,” Freelon said. “Grandma’s not moving until she unpacks her knowledge.”

They are accompanied on stage by five dancers.

Welsh’s choreography mimics movements derived from washing, wringing and folding.

“She wanted to detach the physical movements from the work,” Freelon said.

Asante uses visual art, such as colored tissue paper, to represent laundry on a clothesline.

“We tell stories that are based in history,” Freelon said. “One of the pieces deals with the 1881 Washer Women’s Strike in Atlanta.”

Freelon was inspired by the women who defined their power during the strike.

“We wanted to celebrate women’s work. We want to say that these movements are still alive and they’re still vibrant,” she said.

Freelon also found inspiration in the Civil Rights Movement, along with some of her favorite African-American jazz vocalists — Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

Freelon said she does not have a target audience; she wants everyone to connect with her work equally.

“This is not just an African-American story. Truth grows when we’re able to empathize and see ourselves in each other’s faces,” she said.

“The Clothesline Muse” also has an environmental message.

“We’re ruining the climate,” Freelon said. “If we decide to use the wind and the sun to dry our clothes, we’ll save a lot of energy.”

One of Freelon’s favorite parts of the show is the Talk Back, a 25-minute opportunity for the cast and audience members to have a conversation after the show.

“We love seeing what people get from the show,” she said. “People will say, ‘Yes, that resonated with me.’”

Freelon hopes people will continue to discuss the show even after the talk-back session is over.

“If I do have a wish for people who walk away, I want them to talk to each other. … It starts and ends with a story,” she said.

Freelon’s impact extends beyond her on-stage performances. From March 16-27, Freelon and Asante completed a residency with Williston Middle School students. For two hours each morning, they directed student projects inspired by “The Clothesline Muse” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Williston Senior High School. A sixth grade language arts class learned about interview skills and the importance of storytelling, and an eighth grade art class decorated T-shirts.

“Go with what you know,” Freelon said as the eighth graders drew on colored T-shirts with paint pens and fabric markers. “As you’re working on your shirts, know that there’s never been a shirt quite like this in the history of life.”

The students were instructed to illustrate a personal memory involving a clothesline on the front of the T-shirt and an activity they enjoy online on the back.

“This is old school meets new school,” Freelon said during a Williston Middle School community gathering March 23. “If there’s one thing a clothesline is, it’s a broadcast.”

Lisa Schnitzler, art teacher at Williston Middle School, said the students were very responsive to their time with Freelon and Asante.

“When Nnenna and Maya are in the classroom, the students are very respectful and very responsive,” Schnitzler said. “They provided sketch books for every kid.”

Before designing T-shirts, the students made collages with tissue paper and magazine clippings. The artwork will be displayed in the Wilmington Art Council’s ACES Gallery on Front Street.

“They’re going to see their work in a gallery for the first time,” Schnitzler said. “My students also have tickets to see the show at UNCW.”

“The Clothesline Muse” will come to Kenan Auditorium at the University of North Carolina Wilmington March 28 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for the public and $8 for students. To purchase tickets, call the Kenan Auditorium Box Office at 910-962-3500.

Visit the following link for the full story:


17 Jun

Congratulations to the wonderfully gifted and creative mother/daughter team of NNENNA FREELON  and MAYA FREELON ASANTE featured in the “Remarkable Women” issue of Durham Magazine!  NNENNA FREELON is a five time Grammy nominated jazz singer, composer, producer and arranger.  MAYA FREELON ASANTE is an internationally renowned visual artist whose work is in the permanent collection of the US Department of State and has highlighted in a number of museum exhibitions around the country.

Please visit http://www.mortonfineart.com to view available artwork by MAYA FREELON ASANTE.

Durham_Mag_1014004 web


Durham_Mag_1014005 web


Durham_Mag_1014006 web

Call for visual artists – THE CLOTHESLINE MUSE

22 Jan


clothesline muse logo

Calling all Artists!

About The Clothesline Muse:

The Clothesline Muse is a multi-discipline theater project that explores the clothesline as a metaphor of our community lifeline and its ties to our environment. The performance includes dance, percussive music, spoken word, interview text, video and interactive art. The cast features 6 dancers and jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon as “The Muse.” We will honor our ancestors by transforming the task of washing clothes by hand into beautiful imagery, dance and song.

Maya Freelon Asante will use still and moving projections as reflections of the history and future of the clothesline. Her colorful tissue paper art will hang on the clothesline, alluding to laundry drying in the sun. Kariamu Welsh’s choreographed movements are inspired by hand washing, drying, folding and ironing. When detached from their original roles of domestic work, the motions of washing, pressing and wringing take on a new empowered significance. Our composer, Nnenna Freelon, is inspired by the soundscape of washing clothes in an outdoor environment and work song.

Clothesline Musings: Art Inspired by The Clothesline

An interactive multimedia exhibition exploring
contemporary visual artists’ relationship to the Clothesline.

Visual artists have long found inspiration in the grind and grace of domestic life. This open call to visual artists inspired by the Clothesline, hand washing and line drying, clothesline games and memories, and the environmental impact of taking in the wash. Philadelphia’s The Painted Bride is seeking visual art submissions, including painting, drawing, sculptures, mixed media and digital art — imagery can be literal, figurative or abstract. The exhibition will feature art from the set of multimedia theatrical production, The Clothesline Muse, works of fine art, historical documents, archival images, artifacts, visual projections and sound recordings.



  • All submissions must be entered on our website, via EntryThingy. USE THIS LINK: http://theclotheslinemuse.com/?p=382

  • All works submitted for display must be ready to install/hang


clothesline muse c nnenna freelon

Please spread the word! Thanks for supporting our dream.

Colours and Motion – Art Workshop with MAYA FREELON ASANTE in Lesotho, Africa

8 Jan

The Hub

December 30, 2013 · by 

On the 19th of December, 2013, Maya Freelon Asante – award winning artist and daughter of jazz musician Nnenna Freelon – held a one-of-a-kind art workshop in Morija, Lesotho. The workshop took place at Linotšing art studio, adjacent toMaeder House – one of the oldest recorded buildings in Lesotho – and involved 35 local youth between the ages of 4 -25.

Throughout the afternoon, young people were given the chance to discover and create with a range of materials. In the space of a few hours, Linotšing was transformed into a bustle of activity as the children discovered the myriad of exciting creations that could be made by combining paper, water and multi-coloured tissue paper. Finally, working together under Maya’s guidance, the children helped to glue and stitch together a quilt of tissue paper, which will be used by Maya and Nnenna in their multi-discipline theater project – Clothesline Muse – set to premiere in the US in April, 2014.

At the end of the workshop, as the children contemplated the final creation, Maya said to them: “with your hands, hearts and your energy, you have made art that is going to help your community.”

The workshop coincided with a fundraising concert titled A night with the King. It was held to benefit the renovation of Morija Scott Hospital, where Nnenna, invited by King Letsie III, was the headline performer. Auctioned at the concert were two collages, created by Maya and the group in Morija the day before, with proceeds also going to Scott Hospital.

More information about Maya Freelon Asante:

Maya Freelon Asante is an award‐winning artist whose artwork was described by poet Maya Angelou as “visualizing the truth about the vulnerability and power of the human being,” and her unique tissue paper work was also praised by the International Review of African American Art as a “vibrant, beating assemblage of color.” She was selected by Modern Luxury Magazine as Best of the City 2013 and by the Huffington Post’s “Black Artists: 30 Contemporary Art Makers Under 40 You Should Know“.

Maya has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including Paris, Ghana, and US Embassies in Madagascar, Italy, Jamaica, and Swaziland. She has been a professor of art at Towson University and Morgan State University. Maya has attended numerous residencies including Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Korobitey Institute and Brandywine Workshop. She earned a BA from Lafayette College and an MFA from the School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

More info: www.mayafreelon.com | theclotheslinemuse.com | http://www.mortonfineart.com

photo credit: Meri Hyoky Photography

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


30 Oct

Enjoy this wonderful feature on MAYA FREELON ASANTE in the Fall 2013 addition of Luxe Magazine!





MAYA FREELON ASANTE “Best of the City” in January 2013’s DC Magazine

17 Jan

maya_dc modern lux

Best of the City – January 2013 edition of DC Magazine

by Erin Hartigan, Tiffany Jow, Jennifer Sergent, Karen Sommer Shalett, Tobey Ward and Katie Wilmeth

Washington sails into 2013 boasting – and embracing – a bevy of bests. From beauty, health and style stars to arts, culture and dining headliners, here’s a peek at the scene.


Material Girl

Artist MAYA FREELON ASANTE discovered a stack of water-stained colored paper in her grandmother’s basement in 2005, and her fascination with bleeding paper was born. The 30-year old has since erected countless patchwork quilt-esque spectacles, including a stained-glass-like wonder called “Ubuntu” at the Corcoran and a three-story sculpture at the U.S. Embassy in Madagascar. Now, she’s collaborating on an evening-length theatrical production with her mother, six-time Grammy Award nominee Nneena Freelon, and her mother-in-law, Kariamu Welsh, called The Clothesline Muse and prepping a sitespecific installation for the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica. “Its a blessing to come from a family that’s so inspiring,” says Asante, the daughter of award-winning architect Philip Freelon and granddaughter of famed impressionist painter Allan Freelon.

Visit www.mortonfineart.com to view available work by artist  MAYA FREELON ASANTE.