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Retracing grandmother's sea voyage on the Atlantic slave triangle

Selina Thompson, an artist from Leeds, went on a journey earlier this year retracing the steps of the Atlantic slave triangle taken by her grandmother. Travelling by freight from Britain to Ghana to Jamaica, Selina has turned her experience into a show called Salt which has been exhibited in Bristol and will be feature at Stage in Leeds on 29th June as part of Yorkshire festival.

Retracing grandmother's sea voyage on the Atlantic slave triangle

An artist from Leeds has undertaken an exhausting journey across the oceans, retracing the Atlantic slave triangle taken by her grandmother.

Selina Thompson travelled by freight from Britain to Ghana to Jamaica earlier this year. During the journey, Selina endured rough seas and claustrophobia, and customs officers even thought she was a sex worker for the crew on board the ships.

She explained that the purpose of her voyage was to bring to light a story that is often still silenced today, even though the slave trade still exists in some parts of the world. Selina commented:

“The idea of the ocean as a grave can be romanticised: Davey Jones’ locker, the briny deep. But that wasn’t the case in the slave trade. People were disposed of because they were no longer profitable. Women who were pregnant because they had been raped got thrown over the side of a ship.”

The artist visited Jamaica as part of her journey, and her Monserrat-born grandmother took a boat from the West Indies to Britain as part of the post-war immigration in the 50s. Sadly, the day Selina set sail on her voyage, her grandmother died.

While she was in Jamaica, she felt that times had not changed as much as they should have over the decades. During her time in Jamaica, Selina felt as a black tourist, she was not treated the same as the predominantly white tourists, with many thinking she was staff. Despite this, and the fact that it was her first visit to Jamaica, Selina felt familiar on the Caribbean island.

“The things I associate with home are Lovers Rock, certain accents, certain foods eaten in certain ways, a certain pace of doing things. In the UK all of that culture is pocketed away. But when you’re in Jamaica it’s everywhere. If you’ve never experienced that before, that is a crazy ass feeling. But it was sort of haunting too, because so much of that stuff I associate with my Nan.”

Selina’s experience has been portrayed through an installation called “Salt” - a part performance art, part theatre, and part historical retelling exhibition at the Arnolfini in Bristol on 12th 13th, 18th, and 19th May, 2016, and the Stage in Leeds on 29th June, 2016 as part of the Yorkshire Festival.

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