1913 - 1996

Indiana Bendolph Pettway

Boykin, Alabama
About

Visions were a prerequisite for church membership in Gee's Bend. Indiana Bendolph Pettway, daughter of Patrick and Indiana Bendolph, recalled in 1980 the vision she had as a young woman.

You had to go in the woods and pray. Pray hard, too. . . . I wasn't nothing but children, 'cause I grow slow. I was the runt of all of Mama's children. . . . Littlest one in the bunch . . .

Sometimes I walk down in the swamp. Sometimes I walk around and get me a praying ground out there back of the house in the woods. Sometimes it be nighttime. I just come outdoors and sit on the hill and pray. That's where I got the religion. . . .

I seed myself that night. I was laying out, out there at Pleasant Grove. . . . I was right there where that cow gap is . . . and there was a casket there. And I was standing up over the casket. . . . I was standing up there and Indiana was laying in the casket. I looked in there and say, "Oh, there Indiana in the casket and here Indiana standing up over the casket." And when I say that, this Indiana rise up out of the casket and she went on; had on a long white gown, and she went thataway. I see myself again, I going around a curve, found some big plums. And a lady say, "Indiana . . . if you go round there, you go ahead on around there, but hell hounds going get on your track." And when that lady said that, it was 'bout fifteen spotted hounds got in behind me, just barking on my track. I seed myself again, I climbing a mountain. That mountain was so steep, and every time I get most up it, I fall back. Everything I catch, it'd pull up by the roots. Catch a weed and it'd pull up by the roots. Catch a bush, that bush'd pull up by the roots. . . .

I seed myself again. I was digging down in those weeds. . . . Every time I dig, I dig till I hit the rock; when I hit the rock, that water come pouring out. I was so happy that Thursday morning. The world looked brand new. My hand looked brand new. I felt brand new. . . . I couldn't never finish telling it. And I ain't finished yet. . . . I got something that pull me, guide me. "Indiana, that's wrong. Don't you do it." Something talking within, telling you that's wrong. If you go to do wrong, you could do it, but you stepping over the right spirit when you do it. The spirit going talk on your conscience and tell you that's wrong, don't do that. Well, if you obey, you won't do too many wrong things. And then, if you been converted, you got love in your heart for everybody. . . . I ain't got to hate you for what you got. I don't hate you 'cause of your color. You're a lady and I'm a lady. God made you just like he made me . . . and he'll fix you so that people could walk over you and you could stand it. . . . You know folks mistreat you, and sometime your mouth will open just like that, and he shut it back for you. You just trust.

The women of Gee’s Bend—a small, remote, black community in Alabama—have created hundreds of quilt masterpieces dating from the early twentieth century to the present. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend tells the story of this town and its art.

Gee’s Bend quilts carry forward an old and proud tradition of textiles made for home and family. They represent only a part of the rich body of African American quilts. But they are in a league by themselves. Few other places can boast the extent of Gee’s Bend’s artistic achievement, the result of both geographical isolation and an unusual degree of cultural continuity. In few places elsewhere have works been found by three and sometimes four generations of women in the same family, or works that bear witness to visual conversations among community quilting groups and lineages. Gee’s Bend’s art also stands out for its flair—quilts composed boldly and improvisationally, in geometries that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks, and fabric remnants.

The Quiltmakers of Gee's Bend

This uplifting, Emmy-winning PBS film tells the modern-day "Cinderalla" story of the quiltmakers of Gee's Bend, Alabama. Artists born into extreme poverty, they live to see their quilts hailed by a The New York Times art critic as "some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced."