Strange Fruit was originally a poem and later a song by the teacher Abel Meeropol, also known by the pen name Lewis Allan. It is about racism in the USA, and specifically about the lynching of African Americans, which happened mostly in the Southern states. Lynching has been more frequent in times of social and economic tension, and has often been used by the politically dominant population to oppress social challengers. It arose in the aftermath of the American Civil War, after slavery had been abolished and recently freed black men were given the right to vote. Nearly 3,500 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968. The song was most famously performed by Billie Holiday.
I first read Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday, Cafe Society, and an Early Cry for Civil Rights by David Margolick, about the background story to Strange Fruit and Billie Holiday, and then heard the song. This inspired me to make an artwork.
Strange Fruit
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Photography Nurri Kim.

Strange Fruit Bowl. 2009.
Metal staples on fire burned wood with hemp ropes, 30 x 30 x 20 cm.
Private collection.