Photograph by Paula Naughton
The ‘New Atlantis’ is a project by Paula Naughton documenting the history of the people from the Chagos Islands.
Beginning in the 1960’s the entire population of over 2,000 inhabitants, were forcibly displaced from their homeland by the British Government to make way for a U.S. Naval base; the final depopulation ending in 1971.
The governments involved created a ‘fiction’ that a permanent population never existed, the physical photographic evidence of which is dispersed just like the Chagos community themselves. The project manoeuvers through this fiction and the over-looked and forgotten history is recorded and conveyed through the accounts and photographs shared by individuals. This alternate reading questions the role and power of photography as a colonising tool and the fault-line where history and memory collide.
Taking archive material as the starting point, ‘The New Atlantis’ is a journey through history and time. Material obtained from a variety of sources such as photos from Flicker, ex-U.S. Navy Seabees, museums and individuals, merge together to form an achronological tale. Shown along with the portraits and testimonials from the displaced Chagossians, the project constructs an exploration to not just historicize the past but to visualise the psychological condition and life for the Chagossians today.
‘The New Atlantis’ refers to Francis Bacon’s Utopian novel in which a vision of the future of human discovery and knowledge is portrayed. Bacon played a leading role in colonizing North America and the novel refers to the political ideologies of imperialism, colonialism, and overseas expansion.
This project is dedicated to the displaced Chagos community and all those who have helped tell their story.
With special thanks to Marie Sabrina Jean for her dedication in supporting this project.
For more information go to: http://newatlantisproject.com