salt. // Selina Thompson

Watching, watching, watching as Selina Thompson roots herself and starts unfolding her insides. Her’s is a work of exhuming the dead. salt. traces their ghostly forms so that we might honour their meticulous, industrial decimation. In her hands, there are tools; a very big hammer, a pestle, a mic. She is pounding. Pounding salt and pounding her heart. These two masses linked; both formed over time and broken over time. 

The first time Selina used her passport was to undertake a task too great for her, too brutal to hold. But hold it her body does. She is holding the chain linking white colonial patriarchy, along to capitalism and down to her own terror on board a freight ship that is sailing the Atlantic Slave Trade route. Through all this, she pounds salt. The ocean, the bodies of slaves, the flinches of white liberal people confronted by racism, are all ‘swept up and shattered’ as hammer hits rock. And still Selina stands whole.

We are watching courage. The raw type. The courage that catches off guard. The courage that is not a choice but accompanies an imperative calling. A calling that draws Selina - like many who are part of the African diaspora - to find out and grieve both the documented presences and eroded absences of the slave trade. 

Selina tells the racist tale that a racist teacher told her grandmother. It is a story about how black people came to exist: There were two people. One day they were both soiled with dirt. One was hard working and went to wash away their stains in the sea. They became white. The other was lazy and only washed their palms and soles of their feet. They became black.

Of course, dirty stains are not on the bodies of black people but in the waters soiled by the dirt of white hands and minds. White slave traders stained the deceptively clear waters and yet, a black child hears her origin perversely twisted. History mishandles history. 

It is a history that although effortfully uncovered by many, can still be subjected to tidal denials that result in it feeling frustratingly ungraspable. In the UK today, there are only optional modules within the national curriculum where pupils from the african diaspora may learn of their traumas and their belonging. The ongoing impacts of slavery remain unfathomable, they are formless down to the depths of the ocean, right down to the watery, subatomic reckonings with grief.

Later, Selina speaks of something - will, hands, strength, current - bringing her out of this water and back into form. She finds language for the unspeakable. Through salty tears that prickle - having learnt as a teenager that it is not safe to cry about slavery in a majority white space - I see her. 

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

salt. - Selina Thompson

National Curriculum England - History Programmes of Study 

Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (excerpt) by Saidiya Hartman - NPR

In The Wake: On Blackness and Being (excerpt) by Christina Sharpe - Duke Press

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - Reni Eddo-Lodge   

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Black Cultural Archives

Out // Rachael Young with Dwayne Antony

Rachael Young and Dwayne Antony choreograph their challenge to homophobia and transphobia in Caribbean communities through a stylised repetition of tasks and dance steps pushed to the limits of endurance. Their two bodies exist in relation, not only in the obvious moments of unison or canon, but in the instances of quiet as well, in the peeling of oranges and the unzipping of shoes. Two bodies, poised and beautiful, unapologetically black and queer. One of the most impactful moments of the performance features the voice of a pastor haranguing the ‘immorality’ of homosexuality and of trans identities, looped and warped to accompany a lean and bend, in and out of a strict band of light. The performers faces appear and recede, into light and out of sight into darkness. The hateful narrative of the soundtrack loses its legibility through its rhythmic hijack.

Out engages with the legacy of colonial laws that still permeate the legal systems of many Caribbean countries, buggery laws that foster and endorse a wider homophobia. The histories that affect cultural perceptions of sexuality involve the world, and the contemporary experience of individuals in diasporic communities echoes the legacy of varied oppression. Whilst Western societies congratulate themselves for increasing (but still not universal) tolerance, the impact of its role in the origination of these attitudes must be still acknowledged and reflected on.

The fierceness of the movement in Out, the physical conviction and relentless power reflects an often-unacknowledged strength in difference. It reflects the egregiousness of masculinist and cisnormative dialogues, and the fragility of cultural stereotypes. These different signifiers circle throughout, race and sexuality, bodies and power. Dancing in abandon to dancehall in the opening, a genre that became a musical byword for homophobia in the 1990s, the two performers assert their place in wider culture, the importance of their identities and an affirmation of their selves.  

-       Lewis Church


Links Relevant to this diagnosis:

Out - Rachael Young

LGBT Rights in JamaicaEqualdex

Being Black and Gay: The Illusion of InclusionThe Fact Site

 Being Black and LGBT in Britain (2016)Maroon News

Britain Can't Just Reverse the Homophobia It Exported - Guardian