In the multimedia installation omi ebora (Yoruba for “spirits of the waters”), submerged syllables and words float up from beneath the ocean’s turbulent surface while a cacophony of haunting voices… moaning, groaning, gasping, whispering… attempt to “tell the story that cannot be told yet must be told”, the story of the murder by drowning of nearly 150 slaves on the slave ship Zong in November 1781. Directly inspired by NourbeSe Philips’ epic poem Zong! (2008), omi ebora lifts the poet’s words off the page and immerses them in water, plucking sounds and words from within the poem much as the poet has plucked words from the legal case Gregson v. Gilbert, documenting the massacre of slaves on board this fated ship. After straying off course on a voyage from Africa to Jamaica, the ship’s captain had taken the decision to throw some of his sickly slave cargo overboard when the ship’s water reserves ran low. Two days later when the rains came, he continued to order their murder with a view to later collecting insurance monies for the loss. In the video, the conflicting voices of these silenced souls struggle for speech, their garbled voices surrounding the viewer and muddying the waters of history’s tomb. The video is projected onto the ground from above in a darkened space. Viewers interact with it by walking around the image and peering down. The five-channel experimental surround sound envelops the space.
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