july 2017

Kapwani Kiwanga

Title: Notes for a ritual for the lost at sea

Paul Gilroy wrote The Black Atlantic in 1993. He describes a culture born in the Atlantic Ocean that spread beyond the harbors around it. He sees modernity from this starting point without solid ground but strongly anchored in this fluid country.
Since, the Créac’h semaphore always seems black to me.
This liquid body, changing, does it remember bodies in flesh and blood?
An intuition. Salt contains the remains of this fluid memory.
I sculpt this matter and find out that salt has a slow corrosive anger – every tool it touches rusts.
It sucks the humidity from bodies, settles like thin dust and gradually devours their medium.
I am looking for traces of lives out of death: Drexiyans or other unidentified beings.
The Lampaul cemetery has a modest oratory that held wax crosses.
In the absence of a body, the wax symbolizes those lost at sea.
The City Hall and church are informed of the disappearing before the family. The priest gives a little wax cross, called a proëlla, to a family member of the deceased. The cross is brought at night when the missing person’s family is gathered. Then, there is a church ritual and the cross is placed in an urn with the other disappearances of the year.
On May 29. 1764 Jean Mor, slave of Claude César de Nortz, is hung and burnt on the Saint-Louis Place in Brest.
His ashes are scattered by the winds.
Some reached the Atlantic; the same ocean that brought him from Martinique to France enslaved?
The freedom of the twenty year-old is promised but never granted. With poison, wood pepper, he tried to seize it. Three attempts, no success.
Torture, confessions, forgives God, society, the king. Dead.
His story recalls another one in New France. Separated from Jean Mor by thirty years and by the Atlantic, Marie-Josèphe-Angélique born in Portugal died in Montreal in 1734. She was tortured and burnt after being blamed for setting the house of her owners on fire. A part of a city caught fire as well. Her ashes also carried by the winds maybe found their way to the Atlantic; this underwater cemetery.
A street was named after Jean in Brest and a park after Marie-Josèphe-Angélique in Montreal. These are not the witnesses but the clues.