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Zenobia Washington

Artist Zenobia Grant Washington was born in Newark, New Jersey, on November 24, 1966, to J.H. Grant and Susan Armstrong. She graduated from Winyah Senior High School in Georgetown, South Carolina, in 1984. In 1987, Washington received an
A.A. from the Art and Fashion Institute in Atlanta.

In 1998, Washington was deeply affected by the death of her only brother, Trevor, after which she was inspired to embark on a new phase of her life as an artist. Washington began to create handmade dolls of traditional African American women as "The Healer" and "The Washer Woman" that grew into a successful collection she calls "Women of Inspiration."

Washington took a nine-week entrepreneurial course at the Five Rivers Community Development Corporation's Diamonds in the Rough training program, where she learned to run her own business. She has served on the Five Rivers Community Development Corporation's Board of Directors in every capacity except treasurer. She served as the art and culture editor for the International Association of Special Education's newsletter. Washington's artwork has been featured in numerous art galleries and is enjoyed in many private art collections.

Washington married Willie Washington on October 5, 1991 in Georgetown, South Carolina. They have a daughter, Susan Alexis Washington, who was born in on July 29, 1994.

Accession Number

A2002.222

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/5/2002

Last Name

Washington

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Winyah Senior High School

Bynum Elementary School

Ps 166 Richard Rogers School For The Arts & Scienc

Kensington Elementary School

Art Institute of Atlanta

Columbia Junior College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Zenobia

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

WAS02

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Birth Date

11/24/1966

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Myrtle Beach

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Corn Pudding

Short Description

Doll artist Zenobia Washington (1966 - ) creates handmade dolls of traditional African American women. She is the art and culture editor for the International Association of Special Education newsletter.

Employment

German Federal Government (Bundesregierung)

Hospice of Georgetown County

Artistry of Zenobia Washington

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Zenobia Washington's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Zenobia Washington lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Zenobia Washington describes the plantations where her great grandparents were slaves, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Zenobia Washington describes the plantations where her great grandparents were slaves, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Zenobia Washington describes learning the Gullah/Geechee language

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Zenobia Washington talks about the importance of the Gullah/Geechee language

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Zenobia Washington talks about her father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Zenobia Washington talks about her mother's experience as the first woman to work at Georgetown Steel

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Zenobia Washington talks about moving from the Bronx, New York to South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Zenobia Washington describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Zenobia Washington describes the difference between her elementary school in New York City and her schools in Georgetown, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Zenobia Washington describes her experience at Winyah High School in Georgetown, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Zenobia Washington describes her early interest in fashion

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Zenobia Washington describes her fashion style at Winyah High School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Zenobia Washington talks about her relationship with her grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Zenobia Washington talks about the value of elders and being raised by a close community

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Zenobia Washington describes her early career in the jewelry industry

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Zenobia Washington describes her life before giving birth to her daughter

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Zenobia Washington describes taking care of her brother when he was dying of AIDS

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Zenobia Washington describes starting to make dolls after her brother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Zenobia Washington describes her dolls as an homage to the women who raised her

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Zenobia Washington describes the materials she uses when making her dolls

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Zenobia Washington describes the popularity of her dolls

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Zenobia Washington describes her work with as an artist-in-residence in the South Carolina school system, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Zenobia Washington describes her work with as an artist-in-residence in the South Carolina school system, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Zenobia Washington talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Zenobia Washington describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Zenobia Washington reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Zenobia Washington talks about her mother's pride in her

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Zenobia Washington talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Zenobia Washington narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Zenobia Washington describes her fashion style at Winyah High School
Zenobia Washington describes her dolls as an homage to the women who raised her
Transcript
So, did, did you, did you dress yourself in special ways in school?$$Oh man, please. I was always... people were calling my mama [Susan Davis Armstrong]. And she would be like, "Look, is the skirt long enough? You know, are all her groceries in? (Laughter). Don't call me no more, because I know when she left her, she had the fishnet stockings on." I mean, I would wear roach clips all over my clothes. I didn't even know what a freaking roach clip was, you know what I mean? I was trying to figure out how they went and killed the roaches and everything. (Laughter). But I had all these feathers and stuff hanging; they would have the feathers and stuff on them. And I would have them all in my hair, all dangling off my clothes. I'd have on the stiletto heels and fishnet stockings. I'd take a dress from a consignment shop and spray paint, you know, some, you know, "Free the Whales or the Dolphins" and stuff. You know, I was always doing something crazy like that. So, yes, I was always the one that was trying... I mean I came to school with a gold lame outfit on and protested because... when Marvin Gaye died [April 1, 1984]. Because I just felt we needed that day off, you know what I mean? (Laughter). It's like, "Marvin Gaye is dead, and we need to be home." (Laughter). And so, needless to say, that didn't sit well with the principal or anything. But that's just the type of person I was, and you know, people would just look at me and say, "You know, that's just Zenobia. Y'all just need to leave her alone, because she's just special." So, yeah, I was always that type.$$So, you didn't really get into any trouble or anything, did you?$$No, I really was not. Because I... and I still have a healthy fear of my mother. And she would kill me, man. I mean there was just no excuse. And so, don't come home with no static. She was working really hard and, you know, I mean I don't think that I was a particularly good child, but I was fearful, (Laughter) you know, of getting a real serious beat-down. So, for the most part, I stayed clear, and I was home when I was supposed to be home, for the most part. And I didn't go where I was not supposed to go for the most part. You know, because you stepped out of line, man, it was... it was hell to pay. So, you know--$One of the things that was unexpected about creating the dolls, for about two years, I would make them and I knew that they would make me feel good, but I didn't know who they were. And then it occurred to me that they were, and are, the women in my life that have raised me and have nurtured me, and have taken care of me and have given me such a rich culture in which to pull from. Now, one of the things that I said earlier in the interview was that I left from here [Georgetown, South Carolina] really not in a respectful way. I mean, I was angry. At what, I don't know. And I always felt like I would be able to find more sophisticated, more elegant, more--better class of people someplace else, all of those places that I used to dream about in high school. And so that's what I did when I gypsied around; I tried to find these women that were better, that were prettier, that were smarter. You know what I mean? That were more cosmopolitan and all of those things. But in coming back here, especially with the little one, and looking, re-looking into the faces of the women that raised me, I realized that there are no other women for me that are prettier or more cosmopolitan or more sophisticated than the women that raised me. And so, as an African American woman, sometimes it's--we, we pick and choose the women that we want to be like and we put up on pedestals. So I mean, Lord knows I love Oprah [Winfrey]. And Halle Berry, you know, got it going on, and all those people. But they really didn't have any impact on my life until much, until now basically. And so I started to think that for me to praise Oprah and Mae Jemison, and to not give, pay homage and respect to Miss Lois Scott, who was my Girl Scout leader, and to Miss Ida Bell Singleton who was my, who was our choir director, and to my mother [Susan Davis Armstrong] who, you know, sacrificed so much, it was just a sin and a shame. And so, I came to realize a couple of years ago that the dolls were my way of paying homage and respect to those women that have done so many great things for me. And to s- to say I'm sorry for leaving in such a disrespectful way, and to just lift them up. So, each doll comes with their own story. And she's a story of little country women that, that, that need to be--a lot of those stories need to be heard. And people need to know what wonderful and strong women come from this place. So, that's the story.