The Global Art Project

The Sea is History

The exhibition title is inspired by the seminal poem by the St.Lucian Nobel-laureate poet Derek Walcott. The reference serves to emphasise the poetic undercurrent of the exhibition, while also highlighting the relevance of great Caribbean thinkers such as Derek Walcott, Stuart Hall, and Édouard Glissant within a wider geographical and theoretical context.

The exhibition features work by contemporary artists who address issues of migration and displacement from both a historical and contemporary perspective.The stories and histories relate to a timeframe that begins with the transatlantic slave trade and continues until today. If the exhibition were visualised on a map, the works could be understood in relation to an expansive sea, the ebb and flow of which is never-ending, and cyclical, where the currents move back and forth between countries and continents, through time and history, from past to present. The routes on the map would extend from West Africa to the Caribbean, from the Caribbean to the UK and the United States, between Asia and the Caribbean, and back again. As such, the overlapping and entangled histories of the exhibition are connected to an ongoing discourse that is fluid, open-ended, and unresolved.

At a time when forced migration is affecting the lives of an ever-increasing number of individuals worldwide, the question is how contemporary artists can effectively and sensitively address the topic of displacement in ways that contribute to increased awareness, tolerance, and understanding. The artists featured in The Sea is History succeed in conveying a complex and nuanced picture of migration and displacement. Derek Walcott’s poems, and Stuart Hall’s and Édouard Glissant’s contribution to cultural theory all provide valuable insight into the works featured in the exhibition and the topics addressed by the participating artists.

Curated by Selene Wendt for The Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, Norway.

Participating artists: John Akomfrah, Andrea Chung, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Christopher Cozier, Manthia Diawara, Isaac Julien, Naiza Khan, Hew Locke, Nyugen E. Smith, and Cosmo Whyte.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue to be published by SKIRA, with essays by Manthia Diawara, Annie Paul, and Selene Wendt, as well as an essay and a selection of poems by Ishion Hutchinson. Poems by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kei Miller, Christian Campbell, and Nyugen E. Smith are also featured.