Guernica Remakings in Mauritius, 2019

The Guernica Remakings exhibition was at the Plaza, Rose-Hill, Mauritius, 1 April – 9 April 2019. Located in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has become known worldwide for its extraordinary and diverse nature, and is a tropical paradise holiday destination for many. However, since the first human settlement in 1638 the natural resources of the island have been plundered by different colonial powers, and its geographical location exploited. A legacy of slavery, indentured servitude and forced displacement within the Mauritian Territory are still found to be at the root cause of socio-political divisions both locally and internationally.

Why Mauritius?

Saradha Soobrayen attended the Guernica Remakings 2017 exhibition in Brighton, UK, in 2017. Her ideas and connections shaped the development of the 2019 tour and Saradha became one of three artists in residence for the 2019 Guernica Remakings tour. It was Saradha’s connection to the plight of the Chagossian people that ultimately led the Guernica Remakings 2019 tour to its second destination, at The Plaza, in Rose Hill, Mauritius.

Between 1971 and 1973 the UK and US Governments exiled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago. The Islanders were forcibly removed, misled, and left to live in slums in Mauritius and the Seychelles. Despite having ancestry dating back to the 18th century, the Chagossian people were described as a floating population of migrant workers. As Mauritius gained its independence from the UK, a new colony was formed: BIOT, British Indian Ocean Territory, and a US military base was set up on the largest Chagos Island, Diego Garcia. 

With reference to Vasco Gargalo’s Aleppo(nica) (2016), which translates Guernica from the Spanish Civil War to the Syrian conflict, Saradha considered the impact of collective influence and undertook a remaking inspired by her poetic inquiry into the depopulation of the Chagos Archipelago. 

Chagos(nica) is a series of visual and poetic remakings informed by a found poem about Guernica, translated into English from Kreol by Lindsey Collen working with adult literacy groups in Mauritius.

The Learning Lab

The team embarked on a busy schedule of events across the island, starting in the third largest city, Rose Hill, where performances and discussions were held alongside the Guernica Remakings exhibition at The Plaza. An event titled Chagos et Guernica de Picasso, meme combat was hosted, which featured live performances and poetry readings and took place in the Guernica Remakings gallery space, in front of the display of costumes from Erika Lukert’s play, Guernica. The team also facilitated an open discussion Artist Talk Back about working collectively and the relationship between art and social change. The panel featured the three Guernica Remakings artists in residence in Mauritius: Ghanaian artist, Serge Attukwei Clottey, alongside Italian artist Savina Tarsitano in conversation with Saradha, the live artist, and Dr Nicola Ashmore, the curator of the Guernica Remakings exhibition.

A short drive to the north of the exhibition venue was the Mauritian capital city, Port Louis, where artist in residence, Serge Attukwei Clottey, gave the first ever, live performance at the Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean, performing his piece, Afrogallonism. This came about thanks to the support of the Art Gallery Director, Salim Curimjee. Serge Attukwei Clottey works across installation, performance, photography and sculpture. Serge explores personal and political narratives rooted in histories of trade and migration. Serge is based in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, and is widely known for his Afrogallonism which addresses the migration of plastic. 

Krishna Luchoomun of the Mauritian Contemporary Artists Association, pARTage, was integral in the facilitation of the Guernica Remakings exhibition and associated activities in Mauritius. pARTage is an umbrella organisation for individual artists living within the Islands of the Indian Ocean Region (Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and the Seychelles). pARTage has an established history of running international workshops for both emerging artists and established artists creating a supportive and stimulating environment to help further their art practice and to foster transnational creative dialogue on contemporary art. The arrival of Guernica Remakings was timed to coincide with a two-week international artist workshop coordinated by pARTage’s Sultana Haukim and initiated by Krishna Luchoomun. The theme explored in the workshop, in the related conference and the pARTage exhibition was, Conflict Zone, inspired by the presence of Guernica Remakings. Dr Nicola Ashmore was pleased to be able to reciprocate the support offered by pARTage by chairing the Conflict Zone art conference and offering curatorial support to Dr Vandita Ladkhoo and Pauline Burmann in curating the Atelier pARTage 2019 exhibition installed at l’Institute Francais de Maurice, in Rose Hill.

Later in the tour the team headed to the district of Roche Bois, on the outskirts of Port Louis, to collaborate with local youth charity, Future Hope, alongside international art and peace project, Kids Guernica. This Kids’ Guernica workshop brought together groups of children from disparate areas around Port Louis that Future Hope work with. Future Hope provides food and care, support and educational structure for children who need it.

In Mauritius the Kids’ Guernica peace painting workshop was led by one of the Guernica Remakings artists in residence, Savina Tarsitano, who facilitates the creation of Kids’ Guernica canvases around the world, in which children come together to make art that expresses their identities, what is important to them and their hopes for a peaceful future. During the workshop, Savina worked closely with Jamel Colin of Future Hope with the support of Marie-Noelle Ramdeen, Director of Future Hope, Mauritius. This was combined with a pop-up display of the Guernica Remakings exhibition at the Roche Bois Social Welfare Centre, where the workshop took place. This pop-up exhibition enabled the children involved in the workshop to see some of the other remakings of Guernica.

The Kids’ Guernica canvas was made over three days. The creation of the canvas brought together more than 50 school-age children (aged 6 – 16) from four districts in Port Louis. The children collectively had responsibility and control over the decision making and crafting of their creative vision. For many, that level of control and influence was a new experience, and they grew in confidence and ability, which can be seen in the canvas full of colour and collectively-crafted imagery, representing their lives in Mauritius and hopes for the future.

Kids Guernica workshop Day 4. Guernica Remakings Learning Lab with Kids Guernica and NGO Future Hope, Roche Boir Social Welfare Centre, Mauritius, 2019. Photographer Joe Hague.

Guernica Remakings exhibition was at the Plaza, Rose-Hill, Mauritius, 1 April – 9 April 2019

The exhibition was open from Monday 1st April – Tuesday 9 April 2019 9am-4pm (Saturday 6th April 9am -12pm, Closed Sunday)

EXHIBITION OPENING Monday 1st April 2019- 4pm -6pm launch event.
CHAGOS ET GUERNICA DE PICASSO, MEME COMBAT Thursday 4 April 15:00 LIVE performance and poetry readings featuring curator Nicola Ashmore reading from ‘Guernica, a play’ by Erika Lukert, Live Artist in residence Saradha reads Chagossian inspired poetry from Sounds Like Root Shock, Special guest reading by Trup Sapsiway, including Gaston Valayden reading an exert of his play Madogs of Diego, Winner of ‘Best of the Fringe’ San Francisco Fringe Festival, 2011, staged internationally – ‘Madogs of Diego’ “they were men treated like dogs – kicked out of the main island in Diego Garcia.”
CURATOR’S TOUR AND MEET THE MAKERS Saturday 6 April 2019, 9:15-10:15am
ARTIST TALK BACK: OPEN DISCUSSION ABOUT WORKING COLLECTIVELY AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ART AND SOCIAL CHANGE  Tuesday 9 April 2019, 11:00 – 12:00 Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey and Italian artist Savina Tarsitano in conversation with Saradha the Live artist in residence at the Guernica Remakings exhibition and curator Dr Nicola Ashmore.
KIDS GUERNICA WORKSHOP facilitated by Savina Tarsitano of Kids’ Guernica and Jamel Colin of Future Hope on Saturday 6 April and Monday 15 April, Tuesday 16 April and Wednesday 17 April 2019 combined with a pop up display of the Guernica Remakings exhibition at the Roche Bois Social Welfare Centre.