Exhibition & Performance: Second Sight by Ashanti Harris

Saturday 03 August 1pm – 6pm | Civic Room | Free

Ashanti Harris, Second Site
Exhibition: 13th July – 18th Aug Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 1pm to 6pm daily
Durational Performance: 2-4pm on Saturday 3rd August
Performances made in collaboration with Sekai Machache, Titana Muthui , Libby Odai, Adebusola Ramsay, Natasha Ruwona, Naomi Shoba and Nabu White

Dorothy ‘Doll’ Thomas was born a slave in Montserrat in the mid 18th century and was subsequently moved to the colony of Demerara in Guiana (now Guyana). Sometime before 1785, she was freed and came to be known as the ‘Queen of Demerara’. In 1837 she arrived in London, dressed with diamonds in her hair, a necklace of gold doubloons, ostrich feathers, and a skirt made of five-pound notes sewn together. The bronze plaque is an embodiment of her resilience and survival.

Second Site is a new, site specific installation and collaborative performance work re-imagining the female, African and Caribbean diasporic history which haunts the Mercantile era of architecture in Scotland. Working with a de-colonial methodology and a desire to make invisible histories visible, Second Site explores the historical presence and hidden legacies of Guyanese women in Scotland in the 18th and 19th century.

The Republic of Guyana is a Caribbean country on the coast of South America bordered by Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname. Guyana is a former colony of the British Empire and is historically known as the last frontier of British colonial expansion in the West Indies, populated by both enslaved and indentured people who worked the plantations spanning the Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice regions. Scots were prominent among the plantation owners in Guyana and by the mid-1790s, these colonies were predominantly occupied by Highlanders. Consequently, this colonial relationship between Scotland and Guyana led to the movement of Caribbean women with African heritage to Scotland in the 18th and 19th century, spanning the Highlands, to Paisley, Greenock and Glasgow.

Responding to this little-known history, the installation and performance, Second Site, occupies the Civic Room building, re-imagining the legacies of this forgotten diaspora, seeking to reconfigure historical narratives past, present and future.

Ashanti’s artistic practice embraces sculpture, dance, performance, research and facilitation. The performances as part of Second Site have been created in collaboration with Sekai Machache, Titana Muthui , Libby Odai, Adebusola Ramsay, Natasha Ruwona, Naomi Shoba and Nabu White. Second Site is a form of extrasensory perception, the power to perceive things that are not obviously present. Considering forms of agency and resistance, the performance is a durational piece reflecting on the act of seeing and the presence of history within our experiences of architecture and sites across Scotland.

Second Site is the second exhibition featured in the one year programme Of Lovely Tyrants and Invisible Women investigating themes of spatial politics, gender and racial hierarchies within imperial architecture.

Of Lovely Tyrants and Invisible Women is co-curated by Director, Sarah Strang and Associate Curator, Alasdair Campbell and is generously funded by Creative Scotland with additional project funding provided by Heritage Lottery Fund. Civic Room receives support in-kind from Oran Mor, Carson & Partners and Civic Room Advisory.

Image: Ashanti Harris, Doll Thomas Queen of the Demerara, Bronze, 2019.

 

Cracks, fissures and other thoughts on concrete governmentalities is the result of a collaborative research project between artist Samuel de Lange and curator Alasdair Campbell.

In 1963 after receiving an anonymous tip-off, the activist group ‘Spies for Peace’ broke into a secret government facility at Warren Row, close to Reading. They presented their findings in a pamphlet DANGER! OFFICIAL SECRET, which exposed the locations of all 14 Regional Seats of Government (RSG) sites around the UK. These were built to house the political elite in the event of a nuclear attack, and included RSG11, a secret bunker at Barnton Quarry, Edinburgh. The pamphlet itself was the subject of a D-Notice which requested newspaper editors and radio stations not to divulge its contents to the general public.
Taking this pamphlet as an entry point, the exhibition explores Barnton Quarry as a site of multiple histories and spatial tensions. A site-specific installation of sculptural and photographic components responds to the architectures, materialities and surfaces of the bunker. Original archival materials form temporal dialogues between the past and present of the site – from a concrete manifestation of governmental anxieties and calculated risk, to disrepair and restoration. The exhibition is presented as an open-ended enquiry into how relations between governments and publics can be articulated through architectural space.

 

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