Messages from the Atlantic Passage VI

Sue Williamson
Messages from the Atlantic Passage VI, 2021
Installation: glass bottles, water tanks, chains
Variable Dimensions

Sue Williamson’s Messages from the Atlantic Passage is a large-scale installation based on accumulated records (from both sides of the Atlantic) of the history of slavery from the 16th to the 19th century. Rope fishing nets suspended from the ceiling are filled with glass bottles containing traces of earth. Each bottle is hand-engraved with information about a different slave: a name, a country of origin, a ship, an owner, a plantation, a price. Beneath the nets are pools. Chains of linked bottles hang from the nets into the pools. According to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, between 1525 and 1866, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. Some 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean, and South America. This new work is an extension of Williamson’s acclaimed Messages from the Moat (1997), exhibited in Okwui Enwezor’s 2nd Johannesburg Biennale. Messages from the Moat listed all the slaves brought to the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East India Company from 1658 to 1762