Two major exhibitions presented at Block 336 in 2020 saw the culmination of two years worth of work. Informed by my experience of growing up in the Caribbean, these powerful sculptural works explored the symbolic and historical weight of materials and interrogated their relationship to Britain’s colonial legacy.
BLUE POWER originally shown in Birmingham at Ort Gallery was significantly expanded. This large-scale installation referenced the folklore, superstition and syncretic religious practices invoked in the Caribbean for the purposes of protection against ‘evil’, such as the islands’ growing murder rates, which are underpinned by the sustained inequalities in Caribbean societies. Eighty wooden crosses made from carbolic blue soap and plasterer’s laths were displayed in the midst of twelve thousand paper boats. The boats not only reference displacement and migration but also the thousands of enforced voyages of the transatlantic slave trade.
Ar’n’t I a Woman platforms the lost histories of enslaved Black women and speaks about their bodies as sites of oppression and resistance. A corridor of hand sewn hessian sacks, along with other hanging sculptural pieces were presented, featuring striking, graphic depictions. The images were created by screen printing and branding; the branding utilised in particular as a way of accessing and reclaiming some of the violence and trauma that the work references. The stitching together of the hessian alludes to African-American quilt making traditions, embodying the knowledge of a craft that has been passed on through generations of women, whilst evoking notions of repair and care. Ar’n’t I a Woman is made in solidarity with the women it honours, telling their stories and foregrounding their strength.