'Transcended': a new series of site-specific, large-scale ephemeral charcoal wall drawings depicting male and female soldiers from the Commonwealth in World War I. Connected to an ongoing series Shock & Awe, these works address the ritualistic aspects of war, rites of passage, the idea of rebirth and the social consequences of having fought for your country. The opportunity to be applauded, welcomed back, to be celebrated is negated in the case of black soldiers.
With the outbreak of the First World War, thousands of West Indians volunteered to join the British army on the basis that if they showed their loyalty to the king they would be treated as equals. However, in the beginning only white soldiers were allowed to fight, so the West Indians were relegated to carrying out arduous physical tasks, such as loading ammunition, laying electrical wires, digging trenches, and cleaning latrines for their white colleagues. Transcended provides the opportunity to re-dress the balance and celebrate the contribution of black soldiers to the two World Wars. The striking bold figurative drawings on the walls of the staircase celebrate the contribution of black soldiers to the World Wars, in particular that of soldiers from the British West Indian Regiment who died and were buried in graves in Taranto, Italy, following a mutiny that lasted four days in December 1918.
'Transcended', was presented in the Diaspora Pavilion exhibition held in Venice at the Palazzo Pisani S. Marina, during the 57th Venice Biennale.
Diaspora Pavilion is curated by David A Bailey and Jessica Taylor and presented by ICF (International Curators Forum) and University of the Arts London. Supported by Arts Council England’s International Showcasing Fund.
Photograph by Izzy Castro