Herring, Iron, Gunpowder, Humans & Sugar

Herring, Iron, Gunpowder, Humans & Sugar (Swedish title:Sill, Järn, Krut, Människor & Socker) is a cultural project that examines how the triangle trading system (16th to early19th centuries), the economic system underpinning the transatlantic slave trade, still affects contemporary economic and cultural structures. The project is a collaboration between the Jamaican dancer Olando Whyte and the Swedish visual artist Rut Karin Zettergren and consists of four parts. Collection of facts, creation of sculptural objects, performances with dance and the construction of an telephone app telling the story about the history of the triangular trade and the transatlantic slave trade from a global perspective. We want to investigate questions about legacy, historical guilt and create artistic methods to process a historical trauma.

Within the project Whyte and Zettergren will visit places that are connected to the triangular trade in Sweden, England, Ghana, Jamaica and Cuba and collect information about the history of each place. We will collect and make sculptural objects from the material that the places used to produce and export. With the sculptural objects we will make performances in historical places. In Sweden we will collect steal and visit iron mines that produced the bar iron that was used as a currency to bye slaves with, used in the slave chains, plantation tools and weapons. Collect salted herring and visit harbours where the salted fish were shipped off to the Caribbean where it was used as food for slaves. In England we will collect material like cotton material, glass and gunpowder and visit the old factories that refined the colonial goods. In Ghana we vill visit former slave castles along the coast line and gather material that used to be traded as gold and spices. In the Caribbean the project will visit former sugar plantations and and slave markets. As the sculptural material we will use molasses, sugar, hard wood and tobacco that used to be grown on the plantations.

The performances will be based on the history of each place and consist off story telling, dance with the object and form a contemporary healing ceremony. The dance is inspired by traditional Afro-Jamaican dances that used to function as release for trauma caused by slavery and dance therapy and other forms of art therapy as role play and psychodrama. The performances will be made at historical sites connected to or built with the wealth from the trade. In Sweden we will perform at cultural institutions created by the king Gustav III as Kungl. Konstakademien, The Swedish Academy, Kungl. Dramatiska Teatern and the former west indies company head quarter. In England at institutions as British Museum, The National Gallery, Barclays bank and and stately houses. In Ghana we will be performed in the slave castles, trading points and harbours. In the Caribbean islands at old plantation estates, at the “Grate Houses” of Jamaica and outside Old Court House in Montego Bay where slave rebellion leaders used to be convicted.

In the app there will be a map where you can find the places within the triangular trade and get information about them. The number of places on the map will grow as the project expands. At the present stage we have covered funding for making the project in Sweden and England in Europe, Ghana in Africa and Jamaica in the west indies. For us it is an investigation in how history has affected each of our cultural expression, for Whyte contemporary Jamaican dance and for Zettergren contemporary Swedish art. We want to try to use this cultural heritage and activate the materials and places that was a part of it. A goal is to create artistic methods for reconciliation and use art in healing processes to process cultural wounds caused by historical trauma. We hope that the project will gather new knowledge and deepen the available information of historical places, cultural institutions, companies and other history that has shaped our societies and still plays an important part in politics and contemporary culture. We hope that the users will find new knowledge and also get methods of how to create their own performance or rituals to deal with trans generational and national traumas on through culture.