The Sea is History – Group Show

Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, Norway
07 Mar 2019 - 18 Aug 2019

Cosmo Whyte The Enigma of Arrival in Four Sections (2018), Courtesy of the Museum of Cultural History

Cosmo Whyte The Enigma of Arrival in Four Sections (2018), Courtesy of the Museum of Cultural History

The exhibition title is inspired by the seminal 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.

The exhibition, curated by Selene Wendt, features work by contemporary artists who address issues of migration and displacement from both a historical and contemporary perspective. The exhibition brings the individual perspectives and narratives of each participating artist to the fore, while also questioning how these various histories are interconnected and entangled.

Within this context, migration and displacement are recurring themes that relate to a timeframe that begins with the African slave trade and continues until today. If the exhibition were visualized 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. The routes on the map would extend from West Africa to the Caribbean, from the Caribbean to the UK and the United States, and also between Asia and the Caribbean. As such, the intertwined and overlapping histories and stories are connected to an ongoing discourse that is fluid, open-ended, and unresolved.

Featured works include John Akomfrah, Auto da Fé, 2016; Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons She Always Knew About the Space in Between, 2019; Andrea Chung Bain de Mer Bato Disik 2014; Christopher Cozier New Level Head/s, 2019; Manthia Diawara, La Pensée Archipelique, 2019; Isaac Julien, Paradise Omeros, 2003; Naiza Khan, Two Oceans, 2019; Hew Locke, Acheron, 2015, Nyugen E. Smith Bundlehouse, 2019, and Cosmo Whyte, The Enigma of Arrival in Four Sections, Section Two: Red, Green, Blue and Black, 2017.

Stuart Hall and Édouard Glissant’s contribution to cultural theory, and Derek Walcott’s poem provide valuable insight into the works of the participating artists. Emphasizing the importance of Caribbean voices and poetry within an international context, The Sea is History is accompanied by a catalogue published by Skira. The catalogue includes an extensive curatorial essay by Selene Wendt in addition to poems and essays by Christian Campbell, Manthia Diawara, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kei Miller, Annie Paul, Ishion Hutchinson, Nyugen E. Smith, and Derek Walcott.