The Sea is History: Discourses on the Poetics of Relation

Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, Norway
23 May 2019 - 24 May 2019

Isaac Julien,

Isaac Julien, "Omeros Paradise", Film still, 2003. Photo credit Kirsten Helgeland, KHM.

The Sea is History: Discourses on the Poetics of Relation is a two-day international conference at the Museum of Cultural History, organized in collaboration with Goethe-Institut, Oslo. It explores themes related to postcolonial discourse and builds on the exhibition The Sea is History, at the Museum of Cultural History.

Participants have been invited to reflect on the sea and its influence on migration as a fluid, open-ended, and unresolved cultural discourse, particularly in terms of the struggle to address social inequality. Sea currents, like humans, move back and forth connecting countries and continents, through time and history. Likewise, migration and displacement are not limited to a single geographic region or historical era. These recurring themes in the exhibition relate to a timeframe that begins begins with the trade of enslaved people from Africa and continues until today. As a symbol for movement and flows, the sea is where the world’s intertwined stories and overlapping histories unfold.

Invited speakers include Christopher CozierAnnie Paul, Hannah Wozene Kvam, Selene Wendt, Ishion Hutchinson, Louisa Olufsen Layne, Grace Aneiza Ali, Thomas Talawa Prestø, Michelle Tisdel, Michael Barrett, Nanette Snoep, Lill Ann Körber, Michelle Eistrup.

Humanity’s paradoxical relation to the sea is the second theme that the seminar seeks to explore. The sea predates humanity and moderates the earth’s climate and natural resources. Although human time represents only a brief moment in geological time, the sea has influenced every aspect of human culture. The sea’s role in human travel, trade, access to natural resources and human survival is indisputable. Nevertheless, the sea, during its brief contact with humanity, has become a tragedy of the commons.

Contributions explore themes that the artists address through works presented in the exhibition//

Migration through the lens of religious persecution.
The generations that were uprooted and separated by the slave trade.
Race, colonialism, and displacement.
The social, political, and emotional terrain of postcolonial identity.
Systems of discrimination, segregation, and rejection.
Imperialist practices of oppression and violence.
Norway’s role in the Transatlantic slave trade.

For registration information please contact and the full program.

The Sea is History exhibition, curated by Selene Wendt, is on display at the Museum of Cultural History, UiO from March until August 2019. The title is inspired by the epic poem by the St. Lucian Nobel laureate poet Derek Walcott. The reference serves to emphasize 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. Metaphorically speaking, the works can be understood as part of an expansive sea, the ebb and flow of which is never-ending, and cyclical.


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