Sonia E. Barrett’s Dreading the Map is an explicitly anti-colonial work installed in the heart of one aspect of British colonialism: the Map Room of the Royal Geographical Society.
Using carefully curated paper maps of the Caribbean and UK that have been shredded into strips, the artist and several black women co-creators used African-Caribbean hair styling techniques to plait the shredded maps. Culturally, such female spaces of hair styling are filled with discussions around self- and community-care, and this black woman-centred cultural practice juxtaposed the wood-lined walls, globes and portraits of white explorers that typify the building with the music and laughter of black women talking and working together. As a response to the RGS’s stated desire to reflect on their history and their building, this was a filling of the space with black women’s language, perspectives and practices, a reimagining of what the space can and should mean.
Dreading the Map is one of several “artistic provocations” commissioned by CARIUK. It has been installed in the RGS’s Map Room since March. On 24 May the RGS hosted a conversation with Sonia E. Barrett about the work.
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