Grenada at the 18th International Architecture Exhibition –
La Biennale di Venezia 18 Architecture Biennale

Walking on Water

Commissioner Ministry of Culture, Susan Mains. Curator, Luisa Flora

The Crew

Alexis Andrews
Stari Ribar
The Flotilla — contributors from China, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Grenada

As a Caribbean Island, once at the centre of the transatlantic slave trade, Grenada welcomes the concepts expressed by Lesley Lokko, curator of the 18 Architecture Biennial – and presents a project that highlights the legacy of this forced migration, the cultural plurality that characterizes its cultural traditions. Asking itself how to participate in the collective workshop of the Architecture Biennale, Grenada has decided to present a group project (The Crew) focused on the construction and use of traditional wooden boats.

By the very history of the island, the activity of building boats has its roots in the confluence of knowledge and memories from different origins, from the indigenous people, the Kalinago, from Scotland, from Africa, from the creolization of many, handed down and improved in collaborative work units such as workshops.

But imagining, designing, building and launching a boat is also “architectural” work, understood as the ability to transform the visions, plans and examples born from the knowledge and skills of previous generations into new objects, solid and real, capable of facing the depths and uncertainties of the sea.

The chosen theme allows the curator, Luisa Flora, to introduce the problem of climate change – and the changes it causes – from an unprecedented point of view.

And, finally, the Caribbean island and the city of Venice hosting the Pavilion will be able to share their experiences about the wooden boats, a persistent and tangible visual element of both cultures, and to weave a dialogue about a real risk they both run: that the knowledge, memory, and skills behind the construction of these inspiring artifacts will disappear in the future.

Items on display:

1. Public Screening of the film “Vanishing Sails” by Alexis Andres, featuring the Enoe family of Carriacou. Time and place will be announced.

2. Video documentation of wooden boats built and used in Grenada and in Venice, projected onto recycled sails.

3. Installation of the “Little boats” — a project to draw international attention to climate change

These little boats have been an interactive group project that has been seen in at the World

Expo in Shanghai China, Grenada, Barbados, and the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Triennale. It grows with each iteration, and always diminishes in numbers on the return. The hull of the boat is a slipper, a flip flop, a pushin, a go forward, a zodi, whatever name they are called in the world. The mast has been chopsticks, bamboo, or wood from the jungle; and the sails have been silk, canvas, cotton – whatever is found in the country in which they are being made.

4. The sails of the Little Boats become a place where people can write a message — a sentiment of friendship, a message about global warming, against war. It is a moment of art and activism. 

5. Also on display, will be the art of discarded plastic that will be collected with the Association Vela al Terzo on the islands of the lagoon on April 16, and which will then be reworked by the artist Stari Ribar who collaborates with the Association.

6. For the opening, a performance has been commissioned to the opera singer, Melinda Hughes, who lives and works between London and Barbados, and who has a very strong connection to Grenada.

For the catalogue there will be an essay on the development of wooden boat building in the Kalinago Caribbean, Scotland, the synthesis of the Caribbean, by Angus Martin, historian.

The title “Walking on Water” refers to the people of Venice dealing with the effects of the Acqua Alta and climate change, and now the people of Grenada facing the same in the city of St. George’s.  Also, the reference is made to the “miracle” that it will take for the people of the earth to reverse or adapt to this phenomenon.

This is the 6th appearance of a National pavilion from Grenada for la Biennale. The project is organized by the Grenada Arts Council, and can be seen online at www.grenadavenice.org.

It is supported by the kind contributions of corporate and private citizens.