Locked – Savanna Thao

This piece called, “Locked,” was inspired by elements of my (Hmong) culture, as well as the rampant, ongoing issues of unjust carceral systems and police violence, especially in the US. In the Hmong culture, there are these necklace pieces (spirit/soul locks) that are believed to function as talismans, protecting the wearer from harm, illnesses, or evil spirits. So, within this piece, I wanted to incorporate the Hmong, spirit/soul lock necklace pieces to juxtapose the handcuffs, prison cell bars, and barbed wires—all of which encompass some idea of being “locked” but often in a negative, dehumanizing, and/or violent way. Creating this piece pushed me to reflect deeply on my relationship and understanding of the police, carceral institutions, punishment, anti-blackness, and all other systems attached, and I hope it pushes others too. I hope that we can reach within our souls to reimagine and ask ourselves, “How can we, as individuals and a society, unlock this harmful cycle of pain and violence?” and “How does safety, accountability, healing, and community look like for us and our loved ones in a world of abolition?”