Traces Of Untold Stories, 2019 – 2020

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 kilometres 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 bioshpere.

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