Lucelle. B. Pillay. Journeys. 2023. Engraved, Laser-cut Acrylic, Wood, LED's (4.5x1.5m)
The pivotal artwork of the exhibition, 'Afterisms: Excentric Data-Fluid Narratives, is entitled ‘Journeys’. This work depicts the biographical data from the digitised 'Indian Indentured Labourers Ship Lists'. These lists are available as public record online from the University of KwaZulu Natal (https://scnc.ukzn.ac.za/doc/ship/shipndx.html). 'Journeys' becomes a physical representation of the movement of ships and people travelling from India to the Port of Natal from 1860 to 1911. Delicately engraved acrylic sheets span the timeline of 51 years during which 152,184 Indian people were brought to South Africa. The tallest acrylic data wave represents the total number of men, the second highest wave represents the women and the smallest wave represents the children. Between the arrival of the first ship, the Truro, to the last ship, the Umlazi, each soul is represented as a point of light. These points take the form of the ancient Kashmiri fertility symbol (Kairi; Ambi), appropriated by the British and re-named, 'Paisley'. The artist reappropriates the Paisley motif as a form of embellishment that elevates a devalued and forgotten ancestry. The installation, uses the medium of engraved acrylics and LED lighting to illuminate the collective Indian origin. Through data visualisation, ‘Journeys’ presents Indian history as a visceral, sensory experience.