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'The Kudzu Project' Targets Confederate Soldier Statue in Court Square

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The Confederate statue covered in knitted Kudzu The Confederate statue covered in knitted Kudzu
The Confederate statue after the knitted kudzu had been removed The Confederate statue after the knitted kudzu had been removed
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

Protesters targeted another Confederate statue in Court Square Thursday morning ahead of self-described white supremacist Chris Cantwell's hearing at the Albemarle County Courthouse.

Demonstrators call it "The Kudzu Project" and they draped the bronze unnamed Confederate soldier statue with knitted kudzu.

The kudzu plant routinely grows on abandoned items. The demonstrators posted a sign asking if Confederate statues serve an actual purpose.   

The knitted kudzu has since been removed.    

Thursday afternoon, Albemarle County issued a release on the incident:

At approximately 9:20 a.m. on Thursday, November 9, Albemarle County facilities staff responded to notification that there was a piece of knitted material hanging from the Confederate statue in front of the County Court House.

Staff removed the yarn and inspected the statue for damage.

The removal of the yarn and inspection of the statue took about ten minutes. No damage to the statue was evident.

Albemarle County is committed to maintaining the good condition of all county property.

It is customary for county staff to assess any actions needed to promote our property maintenance interests. In this case, the action was to remove the yarn.


The Kudzu Project Media Release:

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA -  A group of knitters from near and far have weighed in on Charlottesville’s Confederate statue issue with a guerrilla art installation called The Kudzu Project.

Early in the morning on November 9th, the day of self-described white supremacist Chris Cantwell’s preliminary hearing at Albemarle County Courthouse, The Kudzu Project was installed on the statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse.

Photos of the completed installation, taken just before dawn, show the statue draped with knitted kudzu and a sign explaining the project. After the installation, someone removed the kudzu leaving a lone strand hanging from the statue’s rifle. The Kudzu Project team members recovered the knitted kudzu and plan to save it for a future installation. 

The sign links kudzu with romantic notions about the past and revisionist Civil War history. The Daughters of the Confederacy, who erected the statue in 1909, were among the main proponents of the “Lost Cause,” a doctrine that valorized Confederate soldiers and maintained that the war was fought to protect states’ rights rather than the institution of slavery.

Because kudzu grows on things that are abandoned and no longer relevant, the sign asks whether Confederate statues “serve an actual purpose today. Or are they relics of a bygone era that we could remove from public places for the sake of unity and social justice for all?”

More than thirty knitters in the mid-Atlantic region contributed to The Kudzu Project, distributing the idea and instructions through their personal knitting networks. Participants in the project wish to remain anonymous but there is a website (www.thekudzuproject.org), Facebook page (@thekudzuproject), and Instagram account (#thekudzuproject) devoted to the project.

The website contains the inspiration for the project – a drawing of a vine-covered statue titled “Defunct Monument 1 – Racism” by artist Dave Loewenstein of Lawrence, Kansas. Loewenstein’s artwork appeared in “Art Became the Oxygen,” a US Department of Arts and Culture brief on artistic responses to disasters and emergencies. Members of Charlottesville's arts community circulated this brief following the violent white supremacist marches on August 11 and 12, 2017.

Also on the website is a suggestion for what to do with Confederate statues if the lawsuit preventing their removal is successful. “Plant kudzu around them and allow it to grow over and eventually obscure them.”

The Kudzu Project website also provides tips for those who want to cover an anachronistic statue in their own community with knitted kudzu.

The Kudzu Project sign text below: 

KUDZU

Kudzu is ubiquitous throughout the American South. It covers trees, telephone poles, old cars and houses. Virtually anything that is not constantly tended will be engulfed by this fast-growing vine.

As with Confederate statues, kudzu-covered ruins elicit romantic notions about the past. And just as kudzu conceals what lies beneath it, statues valorizing Confederate soldiers obscure a more sinister function, which is to intimidate and oppress African Americans.

Because kudzu grows on those things that have passed out of use and are no longer relevant, its presence on Confederate statues invites us to ponder whether they serve an actual purpose today. Or are they relics of a bygone era that we could remove from public places for the sake of unity and social justice for all?