New Art Exchange, Nottingham, United Kingdom 19 Jan 2019 - 19 Mar 2019
(left) Shiraz Bayjoo - Sakalava Woman II (2018); (right) Shiraz Bayjoo - Warriors II (2018). Both images courtesy of Shiraz Bayjoo and Ed Cross Fine Art
New Art Exchange presents Searching for Libertalia, a show that brings together new and existing works by artist Shiraz Bayjoo. Mauritian born, and now based in London, Bayjoo draws on personal and public archives to address in his practice issues of cultural memory, nationhood, and the challenges of establishing a collective identity within a globalised post- colonial context. Working across media such as video, painting and photography, Bayjoo’s practice explores the legacy of colonialism across the Indian Ocean region and its complex histories of slavery, migrations and conquest.
The exhibition title is inspired by the cult book “A General History of the Pyrates” by Captain Charles Johnson (a possible pseudonym for Daniel Defoe), in which the utopic settlement of Libertalia is established by the fictional character Captain Misson in the island of Madagascar.
Bayjoo explores three main strands within this solo show: Madagascar’s history of piracy with the story of the fictional hero-like figure of Captain Misson, slave trading by the French East India Company throughout the 17th to 19th century, and the Malagasy fight for independence from France’s Vichy government during the Second World War. The interlinking between these distinct narratives reveals the repetitive nature of history. Searching for Libertalia also underlines liberation and anti-colonial movements in African post-colonies and their relation to contemporary questions of race and identity.
Searching for Libertalia spans from video to painting and photographs, and uses archive materials that bridge gaps between dominant narratives of colonisation and hidden histories. Visitors will experience artworks and archive materials displayed in luxuriant frames, magnificent wall cabinets, and an imposing wooden vitrine, alluding to the influence of domestic, religious and institutional spaces in which the creation of historical narratives take place.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events, including a gallery tour led by the artist and curator, and an artist talk with guest speakers which will explain in more detail the connection between the artwork and the historical context of Madagascar, and more broadly the Indian Ocean region, and its contemporary legacies.
Searching for Libertalia was commissioned by New Art Exchange and curated by Shiraz Bayjoo and Cindy Sissokho with Armindokht Shooshtari (NAE).
Shiraz Bayjoo (b. Mauritius, lives and works in London) is a contemporary multi-disciplinary artist who works with video, painting, photography, performance, and installation. His research-based practice focuses on personal and public archives addressing cultural memory and postcolonial nationhood in manner that challenges dominant cultural narrative. Bayjoo studied at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff. He was artist in residence at Whitechapel Gallery in 2011 and has exhibited with Tate Britain and the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva). He is a recipient of the Gasworks fellowship and the UK Arts Council grants for the arts.