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THE PAST: SLAVERY - THE PRESENT: CULTURE

Gerald Steven Pinedo

Gerald Pinedo captures our attention with a large-format canvas.

Objective, transparently revealing, it depicts the crowded hold of a slave ship. Human beings as a commodity - densely packed to make best use of the available space. A wooden model of a slave ship, fashioned by the artist as part of this installation, lends tangible though miniature form to this situation: human beings, slaves, black people, forced into a destiny dictated by cold economic considerations, fettered in chains and transported in the most humiliating and inhumane manner.

Pinedo relates the figures in his paintings to textual information. Careful lists of instruments of tortu­re, shackles for hands and feet, iron collars are set alongside a metal mask for concealing a human face.


Red - the colour of blood, symbolic of love and life, but also a signal for danger - the colour of radical change, of revolution.

White - standing for innocence and purity, in some cultures for strong emotion, sometimes symbolic of joy, sometimes of grief.

Black - the symbol of grief, misery, evil, the unknown.


Un crimen sin castigo, 1997/99, Screen printing on canvas, Unique piece, 145x100cm
Un crimen sin castigo
Negroes for Sale, 1997/99, Screen printing on canvas, Unique piece, 145x100cm
Negroes for Sale
Runaway from my plantation, Screen printing on canvas, Unique piece, 145x100cm
Runaway from my plantation

But black also represents the continent of Africa

The human figures stand out starkly against the red background. The surrounding white lends depth to the red surfaces and space, too, in some cases. The all-enclosing black corresponds to the figures.

The horror of slavery is documented with the aid of a meticulous collection of the instruments of torture. The iron mask, enclosing a human face and rendering it unrecognisable constricting individuality, appears frequently in Pinedo's work.

Other paintings show unmasked faces with traditional African headwear. Proud, handsome, but above all grave faces, gazing into an uncertain future.

Between the large canvases are frames filled with original documents newspaper advertisements offering slaves for sale or hire, title deeds testifying to the trade in the commodity of human beings.

But Pinedo also tells us how oppressed people under duress attempted to preserve their identity - through their rites and religious practices, dances, songs and cults, the heritage they brought with them from Africa. Some of his work, for instance, shows dance masks for ritual ceremonies. Magic signs for invoking the gods, powerful religious symbols - ­Pinedo depicts these in huge format, breaking away here from the colour concept of his other works.