We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 12th in our series on Supper Table Artists
Mana Debalae Cochran Hewitt is a visual artist with experience in many fields, including that of display artist, illustrator and graphic designer for the military, and senior instructor and director of Undergraduate Studies for the School of Visual Art and Design at the University of South Carolina. Hewitt holds numerous awards for her work, including the South Carolina Arts Commission Artist Fellowship in Crafts. Her work is driven from her passion for process and history, and she is influenced by all the artwork she has had the opportunity to witness and the power of imagination. Her show, Persistence, is currently showing at 701 Whaley.
For the Supper Table, Hewitt was tasked with creating a place-setting for the larger than life, Earth Kitt.
Eartha Kitt is a name most people know, whether as the sultry singer of “Santa Baby” or the striking Catwoman in Adam West’s Batman. What some people might not know is that Kitt spent her life being rejected and demonized by those closest to her, from her own mother to the country she lived in. Despite this, Kitt was never afraid to speak her mind and to be authentically herself. She saw herself as a voice for all those ostracized – the reasons for their rejection did not matter; she only sought to stand for others.
Kitt’s varied career and her passion for arts and human beings alike are pervasive in Hewitt’s place-setting. Hewitt as always been interested in metal working as someone who works and thinks with her hands. She has always been “intrigued by metal’s transformation from rigidity to vibrant and fluid designs,” which wonderfully parallels Kitt’s own personal transformations.
Hewitt’s “conception in designing the Eartha Kitt place-setting was to provide as much biographical material as possible.” She made the main brass platter like a clock, onto which she etched twelve circles that each feature momentous occasions in Kitt’s life. The center holds an etched portrait of Kitt herself, and a copper band bearing one of her quotes surrounds her. As the final elements, Hewitt included a chalice and brass flatware with etched copper text; they read: “actress, singer, activist.”
Hewitt’s place-setting of Kitt is so stunning, and the face of Eartha Kitt so powerful, that we chose it to be the cover of our book, Setting the Supper Table, as well as the art for our t-shirts and tote bags that were once a Kickstarter premium and now will be available at the opening events.
This place-setting is not the only portrayal of Eartha Kitt’s empowering figure that people will be able to see at our Supper Table event. Sebastian Sowell, local theatre artist, will be portraying Kitt in the theatrical element of the performance on September 6th at Trustus Theatre and September 8th at Harbison Theatre at MTC.
Sowell is a rising junior musical theatre major and arts administration minor at Winthrop University. Originally from Columbia, South Carolina, she was mainly an orchestral musician before she developed a passion for musical theatre. Her most recent stage productions are Annie Get Your Gun (Annie Oakley), Memphis the Musical (Felicia Farrell), and Fun Home (Joan).
To see Hewitt’s place-setting of Kitt, Sowell’s interpretation of her, and the chance to get a copy of a book or t-shirt, come to one of our opening events on either September 6th at Trustus or September 8th at Harbison. Tickets for Trustus are limited and going fast, and are available at the following link: https://suppertable.bpt.me/?fbclid=IwAR1M-iyMQVSXkx3rKiWpwRV3PabqcXmsODCWoaLBQxPm3BLHt7ncQIJxEV8