Legba’s composition references archetypal depictions of the military general Touissant L’Ouverture, a heroic leader of the Haitian slave revolt (1791-1804), referred to as “The Father of Haiti.”
The title Legba, refers to the Vodun spirit of the same name, who is considered the spiritual symbol of L’Ouverture. Legba is the spirit (loa) of childbirth and cosmic origins, he stands at the
crossroads between life and death. This principal positioning is transferred to L’Ouverture, asserting his historic legacy as a foundational figure in the history of Haiti. Like Legba, L'Ouverture is considered a guide, one who led the enslaved Africans to freedom. However, St. Hilaire’s choice to depict L’Ouverture—whose image remains an ubiquitous icon in Haiti
today—speaks to the belief that the Haitian Revolution is still being fought, and that L’Ouverture’s guidance is still needed in the fight for justice.
This symbolic narrative plays out on a complex material surface comprised of linoleum panels interspersed with a woven tapestry, made from the metal packaging of skin lightening creams. The golden tones emphasize the image’s sense of power, an ironic contradiction to the reality that this gleaming thread is repurposed packaging. The material is something taken from the artist’s everyday life and speaks to her experience in the Black diaspora. The beauty products St. Hilaire fuses into her paintings, such as skin lightening creams and hair relaxers, are steeped in cultural significance. The commodities function as representatives of cultural identification and the politics of assimilation which play out across the bodies of African Americans. In the art of St. Hilaire, the attention paid to the material surface of the painting becomes a metaphor for the significance of the physical body, and how race and racism plays out across the corporeal material of skin and hair.