As you know, I had the honour of being part of a group exhibition at the BALTIC this winter, Hinterlands, with my creative archive titled, A Country Journal of a Blackwoman( Northumberland).
I’ve enjoyed revisiting the exhibition throughout it’s installation, alone and with others. What has been so rewarding has been the responses I’ve received from individual directly, as well as through the BALTIC in relation to the exhibition and my contribution.
Once such response or experience really made me laugh out loud with joy and surprise and involved the statue of Blessed Martin, pictured above.
I argue that creating alternative labels for each item within my archive as a must, as a means of extending the conversation, bringing in a chorus of diverse voices into the white cube space as well as pushing back against the standard, expected practice and pushing back to decolonising the space.
The label assigned to this artefact of Blessed Martin reads:
“Blessed Martin ~ Patron Saint of Racial Harmony
“Take Blessed Martin with you. In your pocket in you bag, whatever. Whenever you go outside, traveling or just walking. Take Blessed Martin with you. He will protect your journey. Keeping you safe with the ancestors as you journey through this world as a Black woman; present and absent.” Advice from Mother given to her sojourning Daughter.”
On one visit to the exhibition, I was told the story around one woman who took the time to really read this label and then proceeded to take the statue down from display, place him in their bad and walk out with him. Luckily, they were spotted doing this and were stopped before they could leave the building.
This individual believed that if they literally took this saint and carried him with them that they would be safe and protected. My response to hearing this tail, after a full belly laugh, was that they must have needed him, at this time. And I felt humbled that they wanted to be part, gain something from this archive also.
The exhibition ends April 30 and to mark it there will be a closing event at the BALTIC.
Saturday 29 April 11am, Donation & free tickets available. This is going to be a whole day event where you’ll get to hear from the artist who have been part of the exhibition. Some will be performing, reading work and sharing natural rituals.
I think I’ll be sharing around building an archive for ourselves so we start taking back the power around who gets to decide what is collected and preserved for future generations. Who’s histories and stories are worthy of being part of an archive?