Sep 23, 2023, 17:00-18:00
Climate Justice / Decolonisation / Ecology / Art / More-Than-Human / Ritual / Repair
Open City

Alternative description text goes hereImage: Keynote speech, Annalee Davis. Image: Luke Frost, KARST

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Barbadian visual artist, cultural activist and writer Annalee Davis was commissioned by Facing Our Past, a project from the National Trust for Scotland, to research the connections between their properties and the history of British Empire-era slavery. Her response to that project was an investigation of the shared histories of the Scottish Highlands and Barbados, resulting in a limited edition series of prints titled A Hymn to the Banished.

The history of British imperialism imposed banishment to small faraway islands, including Barbados, and generated suffering. Yet, deep knowledge and a desire to heal profound traumas elicited practices that relied on ancient traditions connected to the land and the remembering of sacred rites. Annalee’s bespoke box lined with a fishnet captures and holds handmade books, a scroll of banished women, a container of charms, and other pieces. This limited edition artwork explores notions of rupture, friction, entanglements, and the need to belong in strange places through rituals of incantations, charms, and the desire to repair the ills of British Empire-era indentureship and slavery.

The artist shares two of her recently completed plots - living apothecaries grown in Barbados and in Sharjah, UAE - acknowledging the regenerative potential of the biosphere and its inherent capacity for healing at the agricultural, botanical and psycho-spiritual levels. These works suggest future strategies for repair and thriving while investigating the role of botanicals and living plots as sites of refusal, counter-knowledge, community and healing.

Annalee speaks about these commissions as collective responses to centuries of social disruption caused by the ‘Plantationocene’ - including the forced transplantation of hundreds of thousands of human beings, along with their systems of knowledge, ritual, and culture, to foreign islands in the West Indies. She explores notions of rupture, friction, banishment, entanglements, and the need to belong through rituals of incantations, charms and the desire to heal.

The talk was followed by a Q&A session facilitated by Dr. Sana Murrani of the University of Plymouth. Participants are encouraged to continue the evening at KARST gallery where the Against Apartheid exhibition, curated by Ashish Ghadiali, where Annalee Davis will be showing her work.

This is a Radical Ecology event in partnership with KARST and The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth.

Annalee Davis is a Barbadian visual artist and writer whose practice combines history and biography in discussions of ‘post-plantation economies’ with cultural activism in the arts sector. Davis’ works explore Barbados’ transformation from a once biodiverse landscape to sugar plantations and more recently a tourism-dependent island-both arguably sectors of enclosure and exclusion. She understands the plantation as an economic model irrevocably impacting the contemporary environment whose historical legacy has been traumatically inscribed upon the landscape and its people. Working in her studio located on an operational dairy farm–once a 17th-century plantation– Davis exposes the poly-vocal narratives buried beneath the land. Drawing, walking, making (bush) teas, and growing living apothecaries, her practice suggests future strategies for repair and thriving while investigating the role of botanicals and living plots as ancestral sites of refusal, counterknowledge, and healing. A Caribbean activist nurturing more equitable platforms for emerging artists, her work as the Founding Director of Fresh Milk, and co-founder of Caribbean Linked, Tilting Axis, and Sour Grass–promotes pan-Caribbean community engagement by working with artists across the multi-lingual archipelago. Collectively, they reinforce the healthy growth of contemporary visual arts in the region, by working with artists who often feel marginalised from mainstream society.

Dr Sana Murrani is an Associate Professor in Spatial Practice at the University of Plymouth. She studied architecture at Baghdad University School of Architecture at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Sana completed her PhD in the UK. Sana’s main research falls within the fields of architecture, human geography and urban studies in particular, the imaginative negotiations of spatial practices and social justice. She is the founder of the Displacement Studies Research Network and co-founder of the Justice and Imagination in Global Displacement research collective.

The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth creates inspirational cultural experiences that celebrate creativity and have the power to transform lives. Operating within the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business, with a distinctive focus on ‘people and place’, our new placemaking programme breaks boundaries; reaching out across the University and into the wider community to facilitate conversation and action for the benefit of society, the economy, and the environment. Working from core principles of openness, collaboration and inclusivity, we connect people, ideas and opportunities to produce vibrant, intellectually robust, fun and engaging experiences that generate a sense of wonder and enquiry, help our audiences understand our place, and enable people to work together to make change happen.