When artists tell the memory of slavery: A day to remember at UNESCO

© UNESCO/P. Chiang-Joo

On 4 September 2015, UNESCO’s Slave Route project, in association with the Galerie Vallois, the cultural organization "Fait à Cuba" and the French National Committee for the memory and history of slavery (CNMHE), organized an event at UNESCO Headquarters in order to explore the interactions between arts and the memory of slavery.

This event opened on a seminar which brought together artists and scholars to discuss the influences of this tragedy on artistic creation in various fields (literature, theater, visual arts, cinema, music and dance). Among the panelists who have shed light upon this tumultuous relationship, one can mention the illustrious musicians Archie Shepp and Ray Lema, the writers Alain Foix and Mariéme M. Ndiaye, the dancer Rhodnie Désir, the actor and chairman of the Memorial ACTe in Guadeloupe Jacques Martial, the film director Dom Pedro and the painter and graffiti artist Shuck One.

The seminar was followed by the opening of an exhibition “Modern Times. The memory of slavery and contemporary art” in Hall Ségur, presenting the monumental artworks created for this occasion by fifteen contemporary artists from Benin, Cuba and Dominican Republic. This exhibition illustrates in an original way how this painful past still inspires artists from Africa and the Caribbean and how in their powerful artworks, they update the stakes of the history and memory of slavery as to address the contemporary world.

This reinterpretation was also carried along with the performance “Oggun Today” which offered to the large audience who attended this opening, an unprecedented show at UNESCO. On a unique musical composition, a choreographed duel was executed by a dancer embodying the force of the deity Oggun and a drone wearing the attributes of its spirit, lingering in the space to the sound of percussions and the rhythms of the dancer’s moves. While it whirled its vegetal fibers dress, the drone filmed the dancer’s gestures which were broadcasted live on screens placed in different places of the hall Ségur.

See also

Back to top