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Original locations of the slave trade: Gerald Pinedo

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Original locations of the slave trade

For over two years, Gerald Pinedo travelled around Venezuela, Ecuador, Columbia and the is­lands of the Caribbean, undertaking research in libraries and in the actual locations of the slave trade.

During his research trips, the artist had the painful experience of discovering that people in the Latin American countries were no longer aware of their own roots, did not regard themselves as descendants of the slaves. In the course of his explorations, Pinedo inspected and collected countless documents. He acquired many examples of the instruments and equipment used in removing people from their ancestral homelands to a life of perpetual captivity. With this installation he has created a memorial to millions of captured and tormented people deprived of alI rights, a memorial to those who lived their lives in slavery and lost their lives in a condition of servitude. Heinrich Heine's 1854 poem 'The Slave Ship' has acquired a posthumous visual counterpart.

Thanks to the occult religious practices of the slaves, many of the ancient rites and beliefs were preserved almost in their original form. The series of works in which Pinedo depicts the magic signs of various gods in enlarged format are his documentation of the spiritual power, the irrepressible will to survive and the cultural richness of those who came as oppressed strangers but who, through the intensity of their religious imagination, penetrated the culture of the ruling classes of society. It is this aspect that gives Pinedo's work its significance for our own times, for it insists on our engage­ment with the history of slavery, on our engagement with 'Transculturation' (Fernando Ortiz) - the blending of European and African elements in Latin American culture. A large number of surviving cult communities provide the living proof of the importance of African traditions in Central and South America.

Perhaps the particular importance of Pinedo's work lies in its testimony to the unbroken power of the cultural heritage brought with them by people abducted from their homelands - and thus to the possibility of their descen­dants confronting the history of their origins with confidence and pride.

Pinedo himself was born on the is­land of Curaçao in the Netherlands Antilles, but has lived in Europe since the age of six. He was brought up by Catholic nuns. He studied painting and sculpture in Groningen, a town in the Netherlands, and now lives and works in Cologne, Germany.