Project Introduction: (Dearly) Beloved is a memorial to the enslaved Africans discarded without ceremony in the Portuguese town Lagos and its capital, Lisbon. In Lagos town square, a larger than life statue of Henry the Navigator celebrates the figure, famed for the fortune he generated for Portugal through the enslavement of African people. The first captives arrived on Lagos shores in 1444.
In 2009 construction work outside the old town wall unearthed the remains of 158 enslaved African men, women and children cruelly discarded in the historic site of the medieval town rubbish dump. Today a mini golf course and car park are the only landmarks to signify the resting place of these unfortunate souls. (Dearly) Beloved asks, where is their tombstone, where is their monument? What happens when in place of a memorial, there is a commitment to forget?
Composed of fire formed acrylic, the twisted figures echo human form and spirit, creating shifting shadows and refractions in light. The ephemeral sculptures are forged in direct contrast to the heavy, permanent statues and celebrations of the slave traders featured in towns and cities throughout Europe.
(Dearly) Beloved speaks to wider issues of finding a place for the stories and people who are actively erased from collective memory, or rendered invisible by a focus on the victors/perpetrators narrative.
(Dearly) Beloved was created during a joint artist residency between February - March 2020 at the LAC studios with Akeelah Bertram (UK), Anna Carreras (Spain) and Stelios Kallinikou (Cyprus). LAC, a partner on the CONTESTED DESIRES programme, is based in Lagos, a town in the Algarve region of southern Portugal. The residency followed and responded to ‘Heritage vs. Culture’, the first capacity building workshop of the CONTESTED DESIRES programme that reflected on the colonial legacies of Lagos and how we, as artists, activists and citizens engage with the past that has created the world in which we live.
Biography: Akeelah Bertram is a visual artist and Creative Director specialising in creating immersive interactive installations that explore heritage and identity through creative technology. Producing work across New Media Art, Interaction Design, Sculpture and Performance her practice spans numerous exhibitions, residencies, presentations and workshops. Her current project ‘Return’ will see collaboration with 7 international artists and engagement with 100 community participants in the production of a series of global interactive installations to connect the African diaspora. Akeelah is a graduate of the Royal College of Art London (2016) and is currently Gatenby Fellow in Contemporary Art at the University of Leeds (2020).
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