Liverpool Biennial 2023 Seeks Slave Trade Reckoning
The event's theme is 'uMoya', an isiZulu word whose meanings include 'wind'. Sailing ships from Liverpool brought around 1.5 million slaves to the UK in the 18th century.
Antonio Obá, At the gates of Paradise (2020). Courtesy the artist and Liverpool Biennial.
Artists including Torkwase Dyson, Antonio Obá, and Brook Andrew will respond to the theme 'uMoya: The Sacred Return of Lost Things' when the Liverpool Biennial returns from 10 June to 17 September 2023.
'uMoya' means spirit, breath, air, climate and wind in isiZulu, the language of the Zulu people, who mostly inhabit South Africa.
Curator Khanyisile Mbongwa observed that while 'wind often represents the fleeting and transient, the elusive and intangible', it has an enduring legacy in the historic port city.
'I remember my first moment standing at the docks in Liverpool and feeling the wind in my bones,' she said. 'The same wind that made Liverpool the epicentre for the trade of enslaved people and a city that built itself through each "merchant" ship'.
'How can this wind redraw the lines of cartography as pathways for a reckoning to occur?' she asked, and 'how can it gesture towards healing through implementing systems of care that would allow for a sacred return?'
The Biennial calls for the restoration of ancestral and indigenous forms of knowledge once lost or stolen.
Among the artists taking part are Antonio Obá, whose artworks highlight historically marginalised black identities in Brazil; French-Caribbean poet, artist, and 2021 BMW Art Journey winner Julien Creuzet; Alaskan Indigenous artist Nicholas Galanin, who dug a grave for Sydney's statue of Captain Cook during the 2020 Biennale of Sydney; and interdisciplinary African American artist Torkwase Dyson.
Colombian artist Gala Porras-Kim and Australian Aboriginal artist Brook Andrew, both of whom have staged museum interventions addressing colonial themes, will also take part in the Biennial, as will Capetown disability-inclusive dance company Unmute Dance Theatre.
'The geographical breadth of artists will provide new perspectives on our city that acknowledge its past and continued effects on the world and suggests new modes of repair, freedom and joy,' said the Biennial's Director, Sam Lackey.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the Liverpool Biennial is one of the largest free contemporary art festivals in the UK. In 2023 it will again take over historic buildings, public spaces, and cultural venues across the city with a programme of public exhibitions, performances, film screenings, and community events.
Participating venues include the Tate Liverpool, The University of Liverpool's Victoria Gallery & Museum, The Bluecoat, Open Eye Gallery, and institutions under the umbrella of National Museums Liverpool. —[O]