Somerset House presents We Are History, a new group exhibition offering a different perspective on humanity's impact on the planet by tracing the complex interrelations between today’s climate crisis and legacies of colonialism.
The exhibition, which opens to coincide with 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, spotlights the works of 11 artists with personal connections to countries in the Caribbean, South America and Africa, bringing to the fore the perspectives of their communities, not as an afterthought in climate debates, but as the source of resonant ideas and imagery related to social and environmental justice.
Curated by writer Ekow Eshun, and showcasing photography, prints, textile, installation and video, We Are History presents works which are moving, lyrical and thought-provoking, capturing nature as a place of both beauty and fragility. Featuring artists Alberta Whittle, Allora & Calzadilla, Carolina Caycedo, Louis Henderson, Malala Andrialavidrazana, Mazenett Quiroga, Otobong Nkanga, Zineb Sedira and a newly commissioned work by multidisciplinary artist Shiraz Bayjoo, the exhibition interrogates the environmental issues facing the southern hemisphere by looking to the past and drawing important insight from the cultural practices and knowledge systems of indigenous peoples.
Collectively, the exhibition’s contributors are looking to expand the common narrative around climate change, a subject which is often linked to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the West. We Are History invites visitors to look further back in time, exploring significant periods of change such as the 18th century colonial era, which saw plantation agriculture and the forced mass migration of people through slavery reshaping lives and landscapes on a global scale.
We Are History trailer
The artworks in We Are History are lyrical, moving and historically charged. They seek to address climate crisis, not directly or didactically, but with a poetry and nuance that expands the visual framework we bring to the subject. By preferencing perspectives from the global South, the exhibition also identifies environmental change as a racial process with deep roots in colonial history.