Maya Angelou and Quilters

Maya Angelou died on Wednesday, May 28 at the age of 86. She was truly a national treasure known for her books, poems, teaching and politics. Maya Angelou and quilters share a bond as well because she also was an actress and performed  in the movie How to Make an American Quilt. Because of this role, her passing was marked by many quilters as well and we will mourn her and honor her.

maya quilts 1Maya played Anna, the quilt leader in How to Make an American Quilt. She was perfect for the role in a movie that was not. Anna was the quilter, not Maya Angelou, but she played the part so convincingly that many of us thought of her as a quilter.  In the film she guides the quilt and the maya 2women, including her own daughter.

There are not many movies which feature quilts in both the title and topic and it made quilters proud to have such a quality cast assembled for the film.

On my Quilt facebook page I had a quilter contact me remembering her reaction to the film and Ms. Angelou’s role in it. She could even remember lines of hers to this day.

On YouTube I was able to find one clip of Anna, played by Maya Angelou.

Maya Angelou not only played a quilter, she supported quilters as well. She collected works of Faith Ringgold, a phenomenal quilter, painter and author.

maya quiltMaya Angelou was also a good friend of Oprah Winfrey who is known for over the top celebrations. For Angelou’s 60th birthday she commissioned a quilt for her by Ms. Ringgold.

This quilt of life is huge, there’s an excellent description of it in this excerpt from a  book about Maya Angelou.

I wasn’t able to find a picture of this masterpiece but I believe you can see a bit of it in this photograph. I think that is it over her right 10317689_293483207486692_6531346493828601119_oshoulder. UPDATE 6/28/14 – Ms. Ringgold posted a picture of the quilt on her Facebook page and a reader alerted me to it. (Thanks Lila!)

Here is the whole quilt!

There are many ways in which this phenomenal woman will be missed and there are articles about them on blogs and in the news.

But she will also be missed by quilters for portraying us, for collecting us and for valuing us. Maya, you were a phenomenal woman indeed.

I will end with her poem of the same name.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

RIP Maya Angelou

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I wrote a review of the movie How to Make an American Quilt about a year ago. You can read it here.

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