Wrought Knit and Iron

Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies

Temporary Public Art Installation by Olalekan Jeyifous
March to November 2020
Waterfront Park, 1 King Street

From March until November 2020, experience the latest temporary public art installation at Alexandria’s Waterfront Park, Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies by Olalekan Jeyifous. The second of the City of Alexandria's Site See: New Views in Old Town annual public art series, Jeyifous’ concept frames Alexandria’s African American history through the lens of the city’s industrial and merchant history from the 17th to 20th centuries. Once a prosperous port city and manufacturing hub home to one of the largest domestic slave trading firms in the country, Alexandria’s early economy was inextricably tied to the work of enslaved and free African Americans.

See how Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies stitches Alexandria’s story together, featuring symbols that represent Alexandria’s merchant and manufacturing history, including factories, tobacco warehouses and railways. The ground mural incorporates African American quilting and textile traditions, which are historically tied to storytelling and oral tradition. When viewed as a whole, the pattern becomes an abstract grid or map, with the manufacturing icons appearing throughout. From this vibrant surface rise four ornate metal figures facing the water, wrapped in illuminated sculptural seating.

Performances This fall, see a virtual series of commissioned performances inspired by Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies, featuring poets and spoken-word artists. Learn More ›
Safety Measures In accordance with CDC guidance, AHD reminds everyone that face coverings are essential when physical distancing of six feet is not possible. Learn More ›

About the Title

“Wrought” means shaped, hammered or manufactured, a reference to the sculptures in the installation. It holds dual meaning, also signifying transformation through adversity, struggle or hardship.

“Knit” means to weave, stitch or unite, a reference to the ground mural that is inspired by African-American narrative quilts. For this installation, it also alludes to the histories and futures of Alexandria’s communities, inextricably intertwined. 

“Labors” and “Legacies” employ multiple meanings from enslaved labor to industrial labor to the general work it takes for communities to evolve and grow. They also speak to the cultural inheritances that shape and define the city as it continues to evolve.

Wrought tall

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Olalekan Jeyifous

Meet the Artist

Get to know Olalekan Jeyifous, the Brooklyn-based artist behind Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies.

His Story

I was born in Nigeria and raised in the U.S. My mother’s side is from the D.C. area. In my formative years, we moved to many different states. Adapting to new places, I often lost myself in worlds of my own making.

Finding Inspiration

My background is in architecture. I’m driven to explore culture, fictions, histories and futures of cities and spaces in whimsical and insightful ways.

Notable Works

I created a 50-foot-tall installation at Coachella 2017, and I’m designing a monument to Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm in Brooklyn with Amanda Williams.

Designed for Alexandria

I seek to capture Alexandria’s cultural, architectural and merchant history. Alexandria was one of the largest domestic slave-trading ports in the country. My playful, engaging and sometimes uneasy reflection on the triumphant and tragic aspects of history are a means for moving forward toward a more equitable tomorrow.

Study the Symbols

You’ll see a number of recurring icons embedded in Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies. See how these symbols serve as a key legend to the installation, identifying elements of the city’s industrial and merchant history in dialogue with its past as home to a major domestic slave market and a substantial free Black community.

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Wrought at Night

In the News

Read more about the installation and artist in the following national outlets.