Shiraz Bayjoo: Rivyer Nwar / 16 March - 7 May 2022
Rivyer Nwar (Black River) draws together recent bodies of work by Shiraz Bayjoo (b. Port Louis, 1979) that explore the intersecting socio-political, ecological and colonial histories that exist within the expanse of the Indian Ocean. While Bayjoo was born in Mauritius his research extends across the other lands and peoples scattered across this region.
Re-framed portraits of the Sakalava Queens of Madagascar for example offer a more nuanced understanding of the slave trade. Ultimately oppressed and displaced they had previously become wealthy in supplying Madagascan’s as slaves on the one hand, while simultaneously resisting attempts at colonial sovereignty. While slavery existed within the region long before the arrival of European plantations, it was taken to a wholly new, more industrial level of inhumanity under those conditions.
With the movement of peoples brought forcibly by European powers, came the genetic entanglement of generations of subjugated and enslaved communities, both indigenous and displaced. Creolisation represents pathways of survival and resistance from within the displacement of the plantation colony. In this way it has begun to symbolise rebirth, and the possibility of healing through the acknowledgment of the traumas enacted upon the landscape.
The exhibition draws parallels between the brutal approach of early capitalism to land and people, with both exploited in the name of production and monetisation. As ecosystems gave way to plantations and cane fields, flora and fauna was swept aside, in some cases never to return. The Creole communities of Mauritius have begun to connect to Rastafarianism as an international identity that takes custodianship over the lands they have been displaced to – having witnessed the same violence and erasure as the indigenous ecologies of the land. Through the healing of the land, the possibility of healing ourselves emerges.
A powerful symbol of creole identity and resistance, the Mauritian Rivyer Nwar was once a site of multiple communities of people who had escaped the violence of slavery on the plantations. These groups of escapees, hiding in the inaccessible forest and mountain island interior are commonly known as ‘maroons’. These hidden encampments were met with fierce repression with the chasse des marrons, meaning literally “maroon hunt”. Masquerading as a perverse form of sport it was used as a central means to maintain the colonial establishment and slavery system.
Through ceramic, textile, print and sculpture the exhibition re-presents and re-contextualises images both of those in power and those repressed, mediating our reception away from that of their original intention and audiences. Reframing and subverting Dutch and French colonial records, Bayjoo seeks to return the humanity and dignity to the people who were objectified and reduced within these archives.
Opening Tuesday 15 March, 6 - 8.30 pm
The exhibition runs Wed - Sat, 12 - 6pm until 7 May 2022
b. 1979, Port Louis, Mauritius, East Africa. Lives and works in London, UK
Shiraz Bayjoo is a multi-disciplinary artist who works with film, painting, photography, performance, and installation. His research-based practice focuses on addressing cultural memory, postcolonial nationhood, and the exploration of identity and histories in a manner that challenges dominant cultural narratives through the use of photographs and artefacts stored in public and personal archives. Through investigating the legacy of European colonialism, the work explores the complex histories and relationships of migration and trade, and enquires into the challenge of authoring collective identity in the post-colonial world.
Current and upcoming projects include ICF, Diaspora Pavilion 2, Venice Biennial (2022); Civitella Ranieri artist residency, Italy (2023) Italy; Whitechapel gallery, Permanent public art installation (2022); Smithsonian Artist Research Residency, USA (2022);
Bayjoo’s solo exhibitions include Lo Sa Later Ruz, Fondation H Paris (2021); It is the sea that connects us, 12 Gates Art, Philadelphia, USA (2020); Searching for Libertalia, New Art Exchange (2019); 1:54 African art fair Lounge commission, Somerset House, London (2018); Surface to Horizon, Clarke House, Mumbai (2017); Ile de France, ICAIO, British Council, Mauritius (2016); Rome being the center, Arte Operativa, Rome (2016); Ile de France, SAW Video, Canada (2015): A land of extraordinary quarantines, Greenlease gallery, USA (2015); Ile de France, 198 Gallery, London (2015) ; Bayjoo + Vandy, London Newcastle project space, London (2013); Whitechapel Gallery Artist in Residence, London (2010/ 11); Workforce: Artist Shiraz Bayjoo employs the public, INIVA, London (2009).
His group exhibitions include AORA: V, AORA Virtual Museum (2021); Archives of Disruption and Repair, Neue Galerie Innsbruck (2021); We Are History, Somerset House London (2021); Constance Ari, MONA, Tasmania (2021); Here be dragons a reprise, Copperfield gallery, London (2021); Photo London (2020); Who is Gazing, Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris (2020) ; 5Th Dhaka Art Summit: Seismic Movements, Bangladesh (2020); Indian Ocean Current, McMullen Museum, Boston, USA (2020); A Language of Form, Exhibit 320, New Delhi December (2019); A Plot for the Multiverse, Indigo +Madder, London June (2019); Pran Kouraz, Art Night London, June (2019); 52 Artists 52 Actions, Artspace Sydney, Australia May (2019); 14th Biennale of Sharjah, UAE (2019); 4th Biennale de Casablanca, Morocco October (2018); Common Third, Copperfield Gallery, London September (2018); Representation Remembrance and the Memorial, Monash University, Australia (2018); 13th Biennale de Dakar, Senegal (2018); 21st Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2018); Ephemeral Coasts, Glyyn Vivian Art Gallery, Wales (2018); Ed Cross Fine Art, London Art Fair (2018); FRAC, Reunion Island (2017); Edge Effects, Mauritius (2016); The Averard Hotel, London (2016); Multiplied Art Fair, Christies, London (2015); Homelands, Artsadmin, London (2015); Ile de France research residency and exhibition, INIVA, London (2015); Partage, French Institute, Mauritius (2014);Interchange Junctions with Yinka Shonibare, London (2014); Art Apart Fair, Singapore (2014); Oakley Project Space, London (2013); Multiplied Art Fair, Christies, London (2013); Illuminating Cultures, Tate Britain, London (2010); Off the Map, INIVA, Rivington St, London (2009); New Contemporaries, St. David’s, Cardiff (2001).