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African American turns execution trees into musical guitars

The Best Sound Show for 2020 award goes to North Carolina-American African American and musical instrument maker, Freeman Vines.

In a report published in the French newspaper L’Obs, Melody Lockard wrote that of the 400 or more people who live in the village of Fountain in North Carolina in the United States, only one attracts attention.

“It was all a farmland, but there is no cemetery around it,” says Vines, who was sitting in his rocking chair with wrinkles in his face. “So where did they burial the bodies of slaves?”

Some of them died with ropes wrapped around their necks, so that they would not be forgotten, and “so that these agonizing voices could tell their stories with music,” Vines had undertaken a historical and cultural work, which was making harps from the wood of trees that were used to hang slaves, especially even African Americans. The thirties and forties of the twentieth century.

Photographer Simon Arkash first met Freeman Vines in 2016, while working with the Music Maker Relief Foundation, an organization that aims to revive African American musical folklore by supporting the artists they directly represent. Arkash and Vines are a friendship, and they meet whenever the opportunity permits. For his part, Arkash believes that “in an environment that remained hostage to historical reality, Freeman’s world was in constant motion.”

The Freeman Vines story is the subject of the 2020 book “Execution Tree Guitars”, which documents his work with American photographer Tim Duffy, founder of Music Maker Relief.

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