Clementine Hunter's Letterbox LbNA # 60306
|Placed Date||Dec 19 2011|
|Location||Saint Augustine Catholic Church cemetery, Melrose, LA|
Clementine Hunter (pronounced Clementeen) was a self-taught African American folk artist from the Cane River region in Louisiana. She was born on a plantation said to be the inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin, worked as a farm hand, never learning to read or write. When in her fifties, she began painting, using brushes and paints left by an artist who visited Melrose Plantation (3533 Hwy 119, about 17 miles south of Natchitoches, LA, open for tours Tues-Sat), where she lived and worked. Hunter's artwork depicted plantation life in the early 20th century, documenting a bygone era. She first sold her paintings for as little as 25 cents. By the end of her life, her work was being exhibited in museums and sold by dealers for thousands of dollars. Hunter was granted an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree by Northwestern State University of Louisiana in 1986.
One of the more well-known displays of Hunter's artwork is located in a food storage building called "African House" on the grounds of Melrose Plantation . (African House is often referred to as slave quarters, however the building was built for, and always used for food storage.) The walls are covered in a mural Hunter painted in 1955, depicting scenes of Cane River plantation life. One of the stamps in this box commemorates this building. The other stamp is the white church depicted in many of Hunterís paintings, very similar to the church behind which this letterbox has been placed.
Hunter has become one of the most well-known self-taught artists, often referred to as the black Grandma Moses. Painting from memory, she is credited as an important social and cultural historian for her documentation of plantation life in the early 20th century, including picking cotton, picking pecans, washing clothes, baptisms, and funerals. The colors are vibrant, the images are lively, and the stories they tell are of plantation life in the late 19th and early 20th century in Louisiana.
After touring Melrose plantation, seeing Hunterís amazing work and hearing about her life, you can then find her burial place a short distance away in the cemetery behind the Saint Augustine Catholic Church (2262 Hwy 484, just across the Cane River). The best way to locate Melrose Plantation and the church is to pick up a map in the Visitorís Center on Front Street in Natchitoches and follow the well-marked tour route south from town.
To find the letterbox: Park in the church parking lot facing the cemetery behind the church. Find Clementine Hunterís tomb facing you several feet ahead straight ahead. Her marker is about midway down the wall toward the right (note that she was 101 years old when she died). Then, stroll back to the sidewalk running directly behind the back of the church building to the large white tomb at the center back of the church. This is the tomb of Justin Metoyer and his wife, Marie Agnes. Note the small space behind Marie Agnesí marker. Carefully reach into this space to find a camo pouch. Please be sure to reseal the plastic bags and the pouch when you are finished to protect the contents from the weather, and please be careful to hide the pouch securely.
NOTE: This letterbox has two stamps: the African House, and the white church. Both are highly symbolic in Clementine Hunterís life and artwork. Because the box is placed in the cemetery of Saint Augustine Church, please be respectful of the location and mindful that it is an active congregation and a very well-visited and maintained cemetery. Please exercise care in finding and in replacing the letterbox so that it will remain safe.