Acquisition
2 April 2019

'Let Them Be Children' by Deborah Roberts acquired by Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

‘Let Them Be Children' (2018) is one of the largest and most populous works that Deborah Roberts has made to date. The artist's use of collage speaks to the challenges encountered by young black children as they strive to build their identity, particularly as they respond to preconceived social constructs in terms of the black community, the white gaze and visual culture at large. In this particular work, Roberts attempts to embrace the innocence of childhood by depicting a number of boys and girls dancing and intermingling with one another; arms and legs are collaged at varying angles to create a sense of dynamism and joy. However, towards the right hand side of the picture plane, a group of reserved children express wariness at the others' outward form of self-expression. One boy holds another back with an outstretched arm, whilst a number of girls look on with hands on hips and solemn facial expressions. This dissonance between the two groups manifests the social pressure on children to prematurely grow up.

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