Theo Eshetu: The Slave Ship at Tiwani Contemporary

Theo Eshetus’ video masterpiece, ‘The Slave Ship’ has made its UK debut in London at Tiwani Contemporary. 

The viewer is invited to watch through a large windowed hole in the wall, revealing a huge pitch black room with a mirrored floor, as a half moon projection of Eshetus’ video plays on the back wall. The mirrored floor reflects the projection, creating an orb. The result of playing with perception & mirrors creates an illusion as parts of the video sink into the middle of the floor and disappear. 

The name of the video is in relation to the painting ‘Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying - Typhoon Coming On’ by J.M.W Turner, which depicts the ship’s captain throwing slaves overboard to claim insurance.

The inspiration for the video comes from the legend of the ‘Flying Dutchman’, a ghost ship, crewed by cursed ghostly crewmen, condemned to sail the ocean for all eternity and the underwater city of African slaves, Drexciya, who were drowned during transport. The message was to suggest that the ghosts of deceased men and woman still haunt the ocean waters. 

‘The Slave Ship’ explores time, movement, and light in the medium of video and creates a deep, watery view of slavery in history.  The murky oceanic perspective amplifies the vastness of the abyss in which these souls were lost.  The telescopic view and blacked out darkness of the room swallows the viewer whole, leading to the sensation of being underwater, sinking, getting darker as the sun’s light gradually dims. There is footage of bustling sea-life, ports around Europe, and of waves crashing toward you. 

During the video, music is played at a low, continuous, moaning hum, as the video moves from scene to scene, making the installation extremely hypnotic and eerily peaceful. 

Marine life swarms the room, while also mixing images of old seafaring myths, combining reality and fiction. As the video scenes become deeper and deeper underwater, the sea is almost black, showing a man’s face, with a dead expression, in the background, illuminated only by the shimmering lights of jellyfish swimming around it. 

This video installation is stunningly beautiful, and is a moving window into to the tragedies that occurred on the ocean years ago. It is also a peaceful and relaxing experience, that takes the viewer on a voyage across and beneath the seas. 

For more information, visit Tiwani Contemporary exhibition page here.