Erin LeAnn Mitchell: Calafia Was Here

Category: Public Art


1010 Broad Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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Calafia was Here is a large-scale mural project painted on the exterior walls of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. The artwork has been executed and designed by artist Erin LeAnn Mitchell, whose work is inspired by the legend of Calafia. Calafia is described as the fictional queen of the island of California, first introduced by sixteenth-century poet Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo in his epic novel, Las Sergas de Esplandián (The Adventures of Esplandián). In Montalvo’s fictional world, this island was ruled by Calafia and inhabited by her Amazon tribe. In Mitchell’s stunning and all-encompassing work, she utilizes two primary themes celebrating movement and language. A dancing figure, with a duafe (or afro pick) as a head, symbolizes beauty and hieroglyphic language while its four-footed limbs acknowledge life and existence. A motif of a running Black woman embodies autonomy and movement. The scale of the composition gives motion and presence to Mitchell’s afrofuturistic-influenced design. The pattern surrounding the building mimics that of fabric — another medium that Mitchell uses often in her work. The entire piece emphasizes the often forgotten role of Black women throughout all — but specifically California — history. Calafia was Here invites the community to consider and celebrate the unrecorded histories of Black Americans in the West and to champion Black liberation. 

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