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Assuage Any Leftover Mother’s Day Feels With Shantrelle P. Lewis’ New Documentary “In Our Mother’s Gardens”

by Jamilah Lewis-Horton


Mother’s Day might be over, but here at BUST we dont need a holiday to honor moms. If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate, a great pick would be Shantrelle P. Lewis’ debut documentary In Our Mother’s Gardens. Distributed by Ava DuVernay’s Array and now available to stream on Netflix, this film is a deep exploration of the matriarchal lineages of black and brown families. It’s a multigenerational interrogation of how the legacies of those that came before us continue to live on through the daughters and granddaughters of today.

If the title sounds familiar at all, it should. In Our Mother’s Gardens is a nod to Alice Walker’s book In Search Of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983), a collection of essays in which the iconic author and poet articulates womanist philosophy and meditates on movements for social justice. Lewis’ documentary makes clear its references to Walker’s work by quoting her at the very beginning: “How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mother’s names.”

No longer “in search of” our mothers’ gardens and fully standing within them, metaphorically speaking, the film gathers a host of guest speakers among the likes of Tarana Burke, Dr. Brittney Cooper, and Lewis herself to powerfully name their mothers and grandmothers, reflecting on their respective lineages, and all of the gifts and lessons that continue to manifest in their everyday lives. Listening to each one of them sharing fond memories and personal family stories is an extension of the African oral storytelling tradition, and really illustrates how black womanhood isn’t a monolith by any means. 

Production-wise, the film is beautiful. Lewis brilliantly pairs tons of old photographs and archival home footage with vibrant, colorful graphics that bring them back to life. There’s humorous editing and fun animations, making for a really engaging viewing experience. There’s even an outrageously hilarious, but poignant skit reenacting Harriet Tubman leading the ancestors to freedom, using Black Barbie dolls. Incredibly well-executed, In Our Mother’s Gardens is a film that encourages all watchers to know their history and honor those who laid the groundwork for them to truly live. 

Top Image: Screensot From Array’s “In Our Mother’s Gardens” Trailer

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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