SEATTLE, December 10, 2015. Mariane Ibrahim Gallery is very pleased to announce Maroons, a solo show dedicated to photographer Fabrice Monteiro. The exhibition opens on February 4 and runs until March 12 2016.
Maroon is an English word that originates from the Spanish, “Cimarron”, which means living on the peaks. Between the 16th and 19th centuries an estimated 12 million Africans were enslaved and sent to the Americas. During the many voyages between Africa and the Americas, an estimated almost 2 million Africans died before reaching the “new world”. Communities of free Africans who escaped the horrific conditions of slavery throughout the Americas, lived both literally and figuratively “on the peaks” as fugitives who risked their lives for freedom.
Because Maroons posed a serious threat to colonial society, these communities of free Africans lived in a constant state of danger. Africans, who attempted to flee and were caught, were subject to abject torture inflicted through the use of metal masks, collars and chains. Using the Code Noir Monteiro redrew the plans of five different shackles to punish or discourage slaves of any escape attempt. He studied rare, archival photos and lithographs that depict the iron implements used to punish and ultimately discourage enslaved Africans from pursuing freedom.
Monteiro was first introduced to the history of the Maroons after reading “Passengers of the Wind” by Francois Bourgeon. Through conversations with his father about their family history and the role of his village, Ouidah, in the slave trade, Monteiro learned of his ancestor, a Yoruba man who was enslaved by the Portuguese and sent to Brazil. While in Brazil he was given the name Pedro Monteiro. Years later, as a free man, he returned to Benin.
Steeped in the traditions of his native Ouidah, home to the Vodun tradition, Monteiro leverages the potency of ancestral masquerades, but also traditional worship of the deity Gu who rules over metalworking, a technology that permits the construction of civilizations. Monteiro’s subjects represent the enslaved Africans who built the Americas but he is also reestablishing connections between Africans from the continent and their descendants in the Americas. These images implore us to remember our predecessors and what they experienced for believing in freedom. Yes, these images are horrific and sobering, but there is deeper purpose. Maroons is about remembering the weight of history and its consequences; and understanding why freedom has always been so precious and fraught. Monteiro’s Maroons, is a sobering visual narrative about a class of people whose stories are still hidden deep within the standard accepted narratives about the transatlantic slave trade. It is at once an exploration of the consequences of freedom and the literal and figurative ties that bind us from the past, through and towards the future.
Belgian-Beninois visual artist Fabrice Monteiro electrically draws on the techniques of photojournalism and fashion photography, while referencing tradition-based West African cosmologies and the modern history of African and African American photography. Born in Benin, he studied industrial engineering in Europe and worked as a model; under the influence of New York based photographer Alphonse Pagono he immersed himself in photography, gradually turning to African and Afro-Atlantic themes as he contemplates his complex “transcultural” ancestry. His work has increasingly turned to politically inflected modes of “time travel,” reconstructing imagined or mythic moments in Afro-Atlantic history anchored in slavery and the Middle Passage. Monteiro’s most recent work envisions novel futures informed both by scientific and spiritual sensibilities. Prophecy contemplates global crisis in an era of climate change and environmental degradation through a vision that is simultaneously terrifying and beautiful. His advocacy for climate justice, recognized him as a 2015 100 Global Thinkers by the Foreign Policy Magazine.
Fabrice Monteiro currently lives and works in Dakar, Senegal.
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