The Rich Soil Down There

Kara Walker (American, born in 1969)


Overall: 180 1/16 x 396 1/8 in. (15 x 33 ft.) - dimensions variable

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Cut paper and adhesive on painted wall (Pratt & Lambert 2318: Lava (FLAT FINISH)

Not On View


Americas, Contemporary Art



In 19th-century America, many homes boasted cut-paper silhouettes framed on a wall. Small and delicate, the silhouettes preserved the profiles of loved ones or showed happy domestic scenes. Walker has transformed this sweet, safe tradition, making elaborate tableaux of racial and sexual violence in the pre-Civil War South. Her open-ended scenes do not tell a simple tale. Instead, their ambiguity is meant as a prompt for our own ideas and thoughts.


The artist; 2005, with Brent Sikkema Gallery, New York; purchased by MFA, Boston, June 22, 2005.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by members of the 2004–2005 Contemporary Art Visiting Committee: Audrey and Jim Foster, Barbara Lee Endowment for Contemporary Art by Women, Robert and Jane Burke, Henry and Lois Foster Contemporary Purchase Fund, Ann and Graham Gund, Elizabeth and Woody Ives, Joyce and Edward Linde, JoAnn McGrath, Davis and Carol Noble, John and Amy Berylson, Lorraine and Alan Bressler, Catherine and Paul Buttenwieser, Robert and Esta Epstein, The Fine Family Foundation, Sandra and Gerald Fineberg, Eloise and Arthur Hodges, Ellen and Robert Jaffe, Richard and Nancy Lubin, Susan W. Paine, Elizabeth and Samuel Thorne, Gail and Ernst von Metzsch, Stephen and Dorothy Weber, Rhonda and Michael Zinner, Karin and David Chamberlain, Marlene and David Persky, Ann Beha and Robert Radloff, Jan Colombi and Jay Reeg, Marcia Kamentsky, Alexandra and Max Metral, Joan Margot Smith, Marvin and Ann Collier, Jerry Scally, Martin and Deborah Hale, Katherine R. Kirk, Allison D. Salke, Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Robert and Bettye Freeman, Joan and Michael Salke, and Lois B. Torf


Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co.