Some Sunday Stuff: April 16, 2023.

Photo by Zoe

Happy Second of Easter (or Easter, if you’re Orthodox). This past week I took a break from Homeschooling, and of course, it just flew by. I only managed a bit of spring cleaning, but something is better than nothing, so woohoo! Let’s get to some stuff, shall we? First up, from Naomi Elias at The Cut:

Our lives are often measured by the things we keep. Renata Cherlise, visual artist and founder of the popular multimedia platform Black Archives, refers to herself as “a keeper of stories.” “I’m the person within my family that is this designated gatherer of stories,” she tells me. “I collect them, hold on to them, and preserve them.” The archivist’s late grandmother and father were both amateur photographers who instilled in her a love of the medium and left behind a treasure trove of family memories in the form of Polaroids and a meticulously curated family photo album — which serves as the family photo album — which serves as the inspiration for her first book project, Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life

Cherlise always knew she wanted to engage with archival materials in the photo realm, but her work with Black Archives, which she founded in 2015, allows her to document stories “on a broader scale” than she could have imagined. The platform has since amassed a large following across Instagram and Twitter, and is now in a long-term Getty Images partnership that involves curating and exhibiting photographs of everyday Black life from its historic collection. The Black Archives book — out this month — is the embodiment of one of the core ideals of the platform: honoring the Black past by making it accessible. Between 2019 and 2021, 

Cherlise opened up the book to submissions from the public on more than one occasion. She received hundreds of family photos. These were images of strangers, but she felt a kinship in viewing their similar archival practices as families, and recognized their visual language as kindred with her own. “I felt honored that they wanted to share that with me and create this collective experience,” she says. “If given an opportunity, people love to share stories from their past and from their families.”

She began to group and sort the images into themes such as “Style,” “Holding Joy, Love, and Tenderness,” and “The Front Porch.” There’s even a section dedicated to nonphotographic ephemera, such as funeral programs. “What all of these photographs collectively represented to me was similar to home,” she says. “That became the framework for the photo album: These photographs remind me of home. How can I present them in a way that makes you feel at home?

There are, Cherlise points out in the book, more photographs available of Black people laboring than at rest. This observation inspired a section on Black leisure, in which you can see a young Black woman playing horseshoes in a field circa 1945, and a family playing in the water on the “colored side” of Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia, in 1960. For Cherlise, whose archival work is both research- and community-based, holding on to Black memories is ancestral, collaborative, and vital. “I keep everything, and I’m a digital hoarder too. If there’s a family event, I’m the person taking all of the photographs. I’m behind the camera, and I collect, like, Airdrop me your photos, whatever you have, send them to me,” she says. “I’m sure that as I get older, my process will evolve.”

See more here. Now to Atlas Obscura, where Frank Jacobs writes about “The Mysterious Underground City Found in a Man’s Basement” (!!!):

WE LIVE CHEEK BY JOWL with undiscovered worlds. Sometimes the barriers that separate us are thick, sometimes they’re thin, and sometimes they’re breached. That’s when a wardrobe turns into a portal to Narnia, a rabbit hole leads to Wonderland, and a Raquel Welch poster is all that separates a prison cell from the tunnel to freedom.

A Fateful Swing of the Hammer

Those are all fictional examples. But in 1963, that barrier was breached for real. Taking a sledgehammer to a wall in his basement, a man in the Turkish town of Derinkuyu got more home improvement than he bargained for. Behind the wall, he found a tunnel. And that led to more tunnels, eventually connecting a multitude of halls and chambers. It was a huge underground complex, abandoned by its inhabitants and undiscovered until that fateful swing of the hammer.

The anonymous Turk—no report mentions his name—had found a vast subterranean city, up to 18 stories and 280 feet (76 meters) deep and large enough to house 20,000 people. Who built it, and why? When was it abandoned, and by whom? History and geology provide some answers.

Fantastically Craggy Cappadocia

Geology first. Derinkuyu is located in Cappadocia, a region in the Turkish heartland famed for the fantastic cragginess of its landscape, which is dotted with so-called fairy chimneys. Those tall stone towers are the result of the erosion of a rock type known as tuff. Created out of volcanic ash and covering much of the region, that stone, despite its name, is not so tough.

Taking a cue from the wind and rain, the locals for millennia have dug their own holes in the soft stone for underground dwellings, storage rooms, temples, and refuges. Cappadocia numbers hundreds of subterranean dwellings, with about 40 consisting of at least two levels. None is as large, or by now as famous, as Derinkuyu.

Hittites, Phrygians, or Early Christians?

The historical record has little definitive to say about Derinkuyu’s origins. Some archaeologists speculate that the oldest part of the complex could have been dug about 2000 B.C. by the Hittites, the people who dominated the region at that time, or else the Phrygians, around 700 B.C. Others claim that local Christians built the city in the first centuries A.D.

Whoever they were, they had great skill: The soft rock makes tunneling relatively easy, but cave-ins are a big risk. Hence, there is a need for large support pillars. None of the floors at Derinkuyu have ever collapsed.

Two things about the underground complex are more certain. First, the main purpose of the monumental effort must have been to hide from enemy armies—hence, for example, the rolling stones used to close the city from the inside. Second, the final additions and alterations to the complex, which bear a distinctly Christian imprint, date from the 6th to the 10th century A.D.

Hitting Bottom in the Dungeon

When shut off from the world above, the city was ventilated by a total of more than 15,000 shafts, most about 10 centimeters wide and reaching down into the first and second levels of the city. This ensured sufficient ventilation down to the eighth level.

The upper levels were used as living and sleeping quarters—which makes sense, as they were the best ventilated ones. The lower levels were mainly used for storage, but they also contained a dungeon.

Read the rest here. Have you ever wondered why so many fictional villains don the color purple- like Joker, Thanos, or Ursula?

From On The Media, how copyright laws infringe on hip hop:

Iconic hip hop group De La Soul’s music is finally available on streaming platforms, just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of hip hop. To say listeners are overjoyed is an understatement. Only a few days after their streaming debut, De La Soul’s 1989 debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, soared to no. 5 on the UK album chart, even topping their original 1990 high of no. 13. For fans this was a long time coming. The hip hop group had a towering presence in the 80s and 90s, their playful ingenuity and eccentricity even inspired other greats like the Beastie Boys, Childish Gambino, OutKast, and the Pharcyde. But what kept De La Soul’s tunes out of rotation for decades — and thus, largely out of the public imagination — was an infuriating entanglement of legal restrictions surrounding sampling, an art form where producers take snippets of songs and stitch them together to form sonic collages. For this week’s pod extra, OTM Correspondent Micah Loewinger speaks to Dan Charnas, an associate arts professor at NYU and author of the book “Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm,” about how music copyright law suppresses the artistic voices of hip hop producers.

Hope you have a great week, and enjoy this 1941 hit from The Ink Spots, “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire”:

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