Sampler (It was a very). 1999. Hand embroidery on linen. 20 1/2 x 111 1/2 in. (52.1 x 283.2 cm)


It was a very bright, whitewashed room . . . a closed coffin . . . Near the coffin was an Arab nurse in a white smock. A rustling sound woke me up . . . the whiteness of the room seemed even brighter than before. There wasn’t a shadow anywhere in front of me, and every object, every angle and curve stood out so sharply it made my eyes hurt . . . the blood-red earth spilling over Maman’s coffin, the white flesh of the roots mixed in with it.

—Albert Camus, L’Etranger, 1942



All around me the white man above the sky tears at its navel, the earth rasps under my feet, and there is a white song, a white song. All this whiteness that burns me.

—Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, 1967



The sun was the same on the day I’d buried Maman . . . it was this burning, which I couldn’t stand anymore. The Arab drew his knife and held it up to me in the sun. The light shot off the steel and it was like a long flashing blade cutting at my forehead. All I could feel were the cymbals of light crashing on my forehead, the dazzling spear flying up from the knife. I squeezed my hand around the revolver. The trigger gave.

—Albert Camus, L’Etranger, 1942