Observing the United Nations’ International Migrants Day

The following blog post was contributed by one of the artists in the Arrivants exhibition, Kishan Munroe from the Bahamas, who is represented with a video installation and an unfolding sea expedition project, “Drifter in Residence.” It was written on the occasion of International Migrants Day, December 18, 2018, and originally appeared on his personal blog, “The Universal Human Experience,” which can be found here.

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1. Kishan Munroe overlooking the US/Mexico border 2. Kishan documenting a small fishing village in Haiti 3. a snapshot of UN guards on duty in the streets of Haiti 4. Migrants arriving on the shores of Suriname from Guyana.

Ten years ago, in 2008, I began a journey that undoubtedly changed the course of my life. “The Universal Human Experience”, a global anthropological expedition, was indeed an extraordinary challenge; examining behaviors, theories and histories of varying cultures of opposition. Simultaneously it pushed the envelope of my physical strength and mental endurance. Over the years I have traveled by boat, by plane, train and automobile, living a nomadic lifestyle… sometimes even homeless on foreign streets. As I sit here immersed in thought, I take in the rhythms of the ocean; waves of memories… of years of experiences and inspiration collide against the raised reliefs of my fortified consciousness.

Reflecting now, on the water’s surface, I review the circumstances of my journeys, where I’ve found myself as the migrant, the immigrant, the ‘other’. Like an ‘Afronaut’ I’ve traveled through the first, second and third worlds of this earth, collecting samples of moments… of feelings… of tangible and intangible things; some of which I still have yet to understand.

Out of this grand tour, new chapters of inquisitions and interventions were born.

It was by way of my exploratory travels throughout Russia that this present undertaking was birthed. After spending some time in Moscow I journeyed north, into St Petersburg where I was an artist in residence at St Petersburg Art Residency (SPAR). The following year I was invited by SPAR and the Museum of Non-Conformist Art to partake in an exhibition responding to the theme “Transcendental Homelessness”. I felt compelled to scrutinize notions of ‘home’ in the ‘third world’ of the ‘New World’.

In my view, as a member of the African disapora residing in the ‘New world’ we have always been drifting throughout the Atlantic, searching for a place we can call home. From this concept “Drifter in Residence” came into being; a migrant ‘afronaut’ attempting to explain ‘home’ to Russians.

Kishan with passenger covered with tarp_web
2008, (video still) Kishan crossing the Corantijn River from Guyana into Suriname.

On this “International Day of the Migrant” I reminisce on documenting the “May Day” protest in Los Angeles, one of the largest immigrant rights protests in the United States. There I witnessed the imposing solidarity of hundreds of thousands of migrants expressing their frustrations with border issues and the infringement of human rights. I also reflect upon my first experience traveling as an ‘illegal’ immigrant (see blog post). The unnerving voyage did not last very long but it introduced me to the reality of visuals I now see frequently plastered across media headlines; scenes of migrants, risking their lives to traverse borders.

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“Regarding Your Borders,” Los Angeles, 2008

Indeed the human spirit possesses great resilience, yet life remains oh so fragile. Now, preparing for this unique journey into the pelagic world, which I have titled “Drifter in Residence,” I am minded to take nothing for granted. There is a great degree of preparedness that must be met, especially when one has to potentially face the unexpected – when situations are literally life or death.

Since the inception of this project I have encountered a series of hurdles due to circumstances beyond my control: inclement weather conditions, as well as logistical, technological and financial challenges. Although still in the process of extended trial runs at sea, my expected departure date has been slightly delayed. With every step, however, there has been a learning curve. Now, looking back, at those challenges they are truly indicative of the lifestyle I’ve had to adapt to over the years, engaged in my practice, that have lead me into questionable, often unfavorable conditions. Nevertheless, they are all a part of the experience that I seek to tap into – the universal human experience. The beauty in exploration lies not only in attaining the objective one set out to achieve, but also in the unplanned developments that happen along the way. In retrospect of my journey’s trek, the paths caused by those obstructions and detours have permanently etched a meandering timeline: a sketch of colorful experiences, developments and growth; the most intimate portrait of myself thus far.

I call now, on the open sea, in all its density, to shower me with inspiration; to quench my creative thirst and to serenade me with whispers of loud silence rolling off the Tongue of the Ocean.   I never fathomed that my work would get this deep but there is something to be said for ‘going with the wind’.

My mind drifts.

Copyright 2018 Kishan Munroe . All rights reserved

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Arrivants: Kishan Munroe

Kishan Munroe - Drifter in Residence
Kishan Munroe – Drifter in Residence (2018)(Photograph courtesy of the Artist; all rights reserved)
Drifter in Residence (2018)
Live expedition and video installation

Kishan Munroe was born in Nassau, The Bahamas in 1980, and is based there. He is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice is fortified by a framework of extensive historical research. Employing a documentary practice, his work acts as a catalyst for the development of social consciousness of under-explored narratives from the African diaspora. Munroe engages in anthropological expeditions, investigating histories steeped in conflict, their socio-political contexts, and the interrogation of collective memory. He uses his findings to extend public discourse and advance scholarly understanding.

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Kishan Munroe and his father working on the raft during the early stages of the construction using his late grandfather’s tools (photograph courtesy of the Artist; all rights reserved)

Munroe was educated at the Savannah College of Art and Design (BFA Painting and 3D Visual Effects, 2003, and MFA Painting, 2005). His major exhibitions include Relational Undercurrents (2017-2019), a survey of contemporary art from the Global Caribbean which is presently touring in the USA, and his solo exhibition Swan Song of the Flamingo (2013), National Art Gallery of the Bahamas. His awards include the Bridget Jones Award for Cultural Studies, UK, the Bahamian Icon Award for Fine Art (Bahamas), National Endowment for the Performing Arts (Bahamas), The Governor’s Choice Award (Bahamas), and the Combined Merit Fellowship at Savannah College of Art and Design.

 

 

Artist’s Statement

On a self-constructed raft, I set adrift, alone, into the throes of the Atlantic Ocean. There I will remain resident aboard my creation for several weeks, engaged in an unorthodox artist research residency.

This ‘introspective/retrospective’ pilgrimage marks a ten-year milestone in my professional artistic journey, actively engaged in extensive anthropological investigations through cultural immersion. With this phase of the project I literally plunge into the foreign world of the ocean, seeking to tap into the narratives, realities and histories of man’s precarious relationship with the sea and his never-ending quest for ‘home’.

Drifter In Residence, is a strategic development in the continuation of my flagship project The Universal Human Experience, a worldwide, multi-layered fact-finding mission examining the continuum of various plights, conflicts and resolutions that have shaped contemporary cultures, in order to identify common threads shared throughout humanity.