Art Series

Robyn Denny

Traces Of Untold Stories, 2019 - 2020
Robby Denny

Growing up in Durban, sugar plantations surrounded me – it was their lush fecundity which first drew me in. Yet over time, a guttural unease emerged with the knowledge of how such plantations had come into being through indentured labour. This challenge to my uncomplicated appreciation of colonial cash crops has informed the basis for my current work – Traces of Untold Stories – which is set some 4000 kilometers north-west of my childhood home.

Returning to film the chocolate plantation ruins of Príncipe, a tiny island off the western equatorial coast of Africa, was a process of listening to these spaces with my whole nervous system. Standing in the ruins of Roça Sundy, I ‘heard’ slave bells ringing. Rail tracks squealing under freight-loads of cacao destined for world markets. And the markings on the worn, dry, old buildings appeared as stains and scars, remnants of collective memory and loss.

Nowadays in Príncipe, untended ferns, cacao trees, palms and mosses wetly devour the ruins, returning them to the forest. Nature dominates. She emerges as a protagonist finally revered and protected. The whole island is orientated towards preserving her jewel, tending to her restoration as a pristine ecological biosphere.

My film –‘Song for the Ruins’ – along with the Roça series of ink paintings arose from this visible, visceral, tension between trauma and renewal.

Roça Paintings

Ink on Cotton Paper
250 x 150cm

Film Stills

Archival pigment on Felix Schoeller True Fibre
30 x 22.5cm
Framed size 51 x 43.5 x 3.5cm

Song for the Ruins, 2020

Video Installation
Length 3:56 minutes
Edition of 5


Translation by Luís Amoço& Fernando Bragança

Eia eh eh eh eh memé
Eia eh eh eh eh memé

Caialoco kombunda wilite
Mameto dotunga

N´ docu kambeca docupama n ´ go luzendo
Kambepo eie wakemba ko, wakemba ko memé

Eia eh eh eh eh memé
Eia eh eh eh eh memé

Cucuame ko, cucuame ko
Cumbi waca teca

Eia eh eh eh eh memé
Eia eh eh eh eh memé

Imbundo creole (from Angola)

Eiah eh eh eh eh mama
Eiah eh eh eh eh mama

Ladies and gentlemen of this land
Futility made me abuse

I invite them and with two dimes
I cheat them, cheat them, mama

Eiah eh eh eh eh mama
Eiah eh eh eh eh mama

Do not copy them, do not copy them
So that you too don´ t get lost

Eiah eh eh eh eh mama
Eiah eh eh eh eh mama