DEI Spotlight

The Indigo Road Project

Conceived by Brooke Stanton, Dept. of Theater Arts costume shop director, and created by Brandeis students for the Fall 2023 semester

The History of Indigo
While indigo traces its roots to India, the African slave trade made it exceedingly valuable on that continent. "Indigo was more powerful than the gun, it was used literally as a currency. They were trading one length of cloth, in exchange for one human body. Enslaved Africans carried the knowledge of indigo cultivation to the United States, and in the 1700s, the profits from indigo outpaced those of sugar and cotton. At the time of the American revolution, the dollar had no strength, and indigo cakes were used as currency."  — Indigo, "In Search of the Color that Seduced the World" by Catherine McKinley

The Project

The Indigo Road Project is an art installation conceived by costume director Brooke Stanton and made by Brandeis students from January-October 2023. It honors the history of slaves working on indigo plantations and connects it to the story of the iconic American garment, blue jeans. The project will debut in October  2023. 

Brandeis students creating the work represent a diverse range of cultures, backgrounds and fields of study. Together they will tell one story, forming a community through the process.

The work will manifest as a series of denim garment sculptures hardened by weatherproof resin and positioned walking, dancing and running around Spingold Theater Center and surrounding outdoor areas. Each sculpture will honor the life of a person, previously only recorded as a business loss, through an embroidered patch of cotton with a QR code. When scanned, this code will link to the name of an enslaved worker on an indigo or cotton plantation with a statement about that step in the process and history of making denim. 

Student collaborators include Liam Delaney, Sabrina Goldsmith, Ofri Levinson, Jessica Umanoff, AJ Pesaro, LaNiyah Grovell, Anna Sewald, Anthony Andrade and Giftbell Lomotey.

The Materials

While taking inventory of the vast and important costume stock at the Spingold Theater Center, multiple boxes of old denim jeans were uncovered. Since that amount of jeans is not necessary to store in stock, Brooke Stanton decided they would be perfect for a project she had long envisioned.