Re-imaging the brown paper bag

Owens Daniels, with The Brown Paper Bag Exhibit on display at the Unleashed Art Center, transforms the brown paper bag into a piece of art.

Re-imaging the brown paper bag
February 09
07:00 2017

Photo by Tevin Stinson



Local photographer Owens Daniels is looking to change the rhetoric associated with a ritual that was once used to determine if you were qualified to be a member of African American sororities, fraternities, clubs and even some churches. The brown bag test.

Last Friday, Feb. 3, Daniels opened his latest exhibition, “Brown Paper Bag” at the Unleashed Art Center. While the brown bag was used to draw a line between light skin and dark skin blacks at the turn of the 20th century, with his exhibit that features black models of all shades posing with brown bags, Daniels wanted the symbol of oppression to take on a new meaning.

“When I was putting the collection together, I didn’t want to focus on the struggle of the bag. I wanted to focus on the victory of the bag. So, instead of putting the bag in a negative subject matter, I wanted to make the bag a piece of fine art. I wanted to make it sensual. I wanted to make it dominate. I wanted to make the bag a model its self.”

Daniels will be hosting an event associated with the exhibit. On Feb. 10 from 7 to 10 p.m., music by singer Diana Tuffin and percussionist Bill Smith, spoken word by Winston-Salem Writers, Daniels and light refreshments will be featured at the Unleashed Arts Center, 205 W. Sixth St., Winston-Salem.

With the exhibit opening the first week of Black History Month, Daniels told The Chronicle it feels good to know that he is sharing a piece of history that is often overlooked. Although the brown bag test is a thing of the past, Daniels said today many African-Americans still live by the code that lighter is better.

The Brown Paper Bag Exhibition will be on dis-play at the Unleashed Art Center located at 205 W. 6th Street until March 3.

For more information on the exhibit, call Owens Daniels Photography at 336-251-4729 or visit

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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