We are VERY excited to announce that the Clement exhibition is now live!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12 SEPTEMBER – 11 OCTOBER 2015 CLEMENT SIATOUS SAGREN
Simon Preston Gallery is delighted to present Sagren, a solo exhibition of paintings by Chagossian artist Clement Siatous. The exhibition opens on 12 September and will run until 11 October, 2015.
Clement Siatous was born in 1947 on the Chagos Islands, a small isolated archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean. He spent most of his childhood on the island of Diego Garcia until he and his family were forcibly evicted. The entire population of the islands were expelled by the British Government to make way for a US naval base in 1973.
The UK Government was responsible for creating a fiction that a permanent population never existed on the Chagos Islands. This claim was made easier to uphold due to sparse photographic documentation that until recently mainly existed in dispersed military and government archives. As with many evicted Chagossians, compelled to leave their belongings behind, Siatous had no documentation of his heritage. In direct response to the continued political denial, he began to render a counterpoint to this official record.
Working with acrylic on canvas and employing vivid color, Siatous illustrates his former everyday life in exhaustive detail, documenting the villages and homes of Chagos as well as its copra and fishing industries. The works in the exhibition form part of a comprehensive chronicle of life on the islands. As a further conceptual device, many of the paintings bear the date of a specific memory. ‘Plagede Perhos Banhos, 1954’, painted in 2012, portrays a bustling scene depicting Chagossian food and culture, traditional tools, woven baskets, hand-made fishing boats, and different stages of the copra industry. Siatous considers each painting a political act, becoming a platform on which to confront the governments that evicted them.
Siatous describes his process as ‘self imagination’, a means of claiming ownership of his own history. His work embodies the Chagossian condition of Sagren, the Creole term used to describe the profound sorrow and longing for a denied homeland. Through his own personal journey of recollection, Siatous issues a defiant rebellion.
The exhibition, curated by Paula Naughton, is part of a multi-media project called The New Atlantis that maneuvers through testimonials and archival material obtained from a variety of sources, such as retired US Navy Seabees, military museums and WikiLeaks in order to bear witness to this untold history. www.newatlantisproject.com.
The expulsion was part of a deal brokered between the British and US governments to lease the islands, now one of the largest, most strategic military bases in the world. Living in appalling conditions, having been placed in slums between Mauritius and the Seychelles, many families separated as the uprooted community struggled to survive.
Current Political Status
Both the US and UK Governments are under increased international pressure following a recent ruling by the United Nations that the UK government acted illegally in creating a marine reserve around the Chagos Islands. The 50-year lease for the base is due to expire in 2016 and additionally in January, a British Government study found no significant legal barriers to resettling the islands. The exhibition comes at a crucial time for the Chagos community as they await the result of a Supreme Court hearing that took place in London on June 22nd appealing a return home.