By Nii B. Andrews
There is a mysterious but compelling story of a slave ship from the 19th century.
All the slaves on that ship went blind except for one. Needless to state, almost all of them were thrown overboard – completely in accordance with the abysmal moral standards and abject brutality of those days.
But are our attitudes and morals any better today? Are we more caring today?
Lubiana Himid utilizes this tragic story as the basis for her new painting Le Rodeur: The Lock (2016).
There’s a strange foreboding in this work that seems to go beyond a specific time and place; the sea is once again an uneasy presence….at once a witness and an executor.
Himid insists that her work investigates ‘the depths of despair, the pain of loss, and an understanding of what actually matters to me’.
Immigration and identity remain at the heart of today’s international politics with the world’s majority holding stopports – not passports; the former leading to the most inane, moronic questions and scrutiny from scruffy, gruff officialdom at legitimate entry points.
Meditations and reflections on home and belonging have always been an intrinsic part of Himid’s work in which she repeatedly calls to mind the sea, and accompanying associations of journeys and exile.
She references not only fatal crossings, but the global movement of people and culture.
Today, in the midst of an international refugee crisis and the apparent resurgence of functioning slave markets, such work takes on added agency and urgency.
Himid was born in Zanzibar where her father was from; her mother from east Lancaster.
Himid lives and works in Preston and is professor of contemporary art at the University of Central Lancashire.
She has just been nominated for the Turner Prize.