Theo Eshetu – The Slave Ship

<p>With <em>The Slave Ship</em>, Theo Eshetu continues his exploration of the fundamental components of video - time, movement and light - and creates a pensive oceanic epic evoking the history of slavery. The title of the installation references one of J.M.W Turner's most celebrated works, the 1840 painting <em>Slavers Throwing Overboard tlie Dead and Dying - Typhoon Coming On</em> (also known as <em>The Slave Ship</em>). The painting depicts the slave ship Zong pummelled by violent waves, as its captain throws enslaved men and women overboard in order to claim insurance. The viewer is immersed in blurred marine currents and embarks on a voyage into the depths of oceanic memories, reality and fiction converge while myths past and present emerge. Eshetu borrows from the legends of the Flying Dutchman (a phan­tom vessel condemned to sail the oceans for eternity, with a ghostly crew of dead men) and Drexciya (the underwater city founded by African slaves who were drowned during the Middle Passage) to suggest that the ghosts of deceased enslaved men and women still haunt the waters of European ports. The footage for the video was shot in Hamburg, Germany,where the Swedish Africa Company traded in slaves, gold, ivory and sugar from São Tomé from 1649. Eshetu uses the metaphor of the oceans to examine the legacy of historic trade from South to North, and its current currency in the pre­sent trade of goods and migration at sea.</p>