Global Plantation Series: A Land of Extraordinary Quarantines

A Conversation between Shiraz Bayjoo and Anna Arabindan-Kesson 

The first of a series of artist-directed digital discussions that contemplate the global forms and meanings of the plantation historically, and in our contemporary moment took place on Friday 5 June 2020 with artist Shiraz Bayjoo and art historian Anna Arabindan-Kesson.

When Mark Twain visited Mauritius in 1896, he described it as a Land of Extraordinary Quarantines, referring to the fear of disease transmission associated with ships transporting indentured laborers to the island. The dual image of the island as a space of quarantine and a plantation animates artist Shiraz Bayjoo’s multi-media practice, and the archives-in formation he creates. In this conversation Shiraz and art historian Anna Arabindan-Kesson will reflect on the convergence of extraction and confinement, of humans and natural world, of labor and memory in his Indian ocean landscapes. How does art help us understand the afterlives of these colonial histories, in our current experience of confinement, and provide alternative possibilities for working through this uncertain present?

About the speakers

Shiraz Bayjoo studied Painting at the University of Wales, Institute Cardiff, and was artist in residence at Whitechapel Gallery during 2011. He has exhibited at Tate Britain and the Institute of International Visual Arts, London; 14th Biennale of Sharjah; 13th Biennale of Dakar; 21st Biennale of Sydney; and is a recipient of the Gasworks Fellowship and the Arts Council of England. His work is represented in the Sharjah Foundation collection, UK Government collection, and French National collection, as well as private collections both in Europe and Asia. Born in Mauritius, Bayjoo’s work focuses on the Indian Ocean and the European historical legacies that have shaped the region. Bayjoo has been a visiting lecturer and critic at universities both in Europe and the USA, most notably the Courtauld Institute, Central St. Martin’s college of Art, MONASH university Australia, and Princeton University (forthcoming) USA. Bayjoo is participating in the Diaspora Pavilion 2 programme.

Anna Arabindan-Kesson is an art historian and writer, who is jointly appointed as an Assistant Professor of Black Diaspora Art in the departments of African American Studies and Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. She has lived and studied in Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and England and prior to completing her PhD in African American Studies and Art History in the United States, Anna was a Registered Nurse. Her personal and professional background inflect her academic and curatorial work which focuses on the relationship of vision and visuality to histories of race, empire, and migration.

Images courtesy Shiraz Bayjoo.