Watch this interview with artist Laura Facey.
Laura Facey: The inspiration for Their Spirits Gone Before Them has a bit of history. It that piece began with the Redemption Song Monument, which I was commissioned to do by the Government of Jamaica. I won a blind competition and in 2003 that piece was unveiled at the ceremonial entrance to the Emancipation Park in Kingston in Jamaica.
And after that piece was unveiled the Government asked me to make miniature souvenirs pieces of the monument, which I duly set about doing. And partway through that project I became rather frustrated, but then I started to see these miniatures in a cotton wood canoe. We have these wonderful cotton wood canoes that fishermen paddle around the island and I just kept seeing these miniatures in the canoe and I went, though I had a little bit of a struggle, how can I take my healed figures and make them… put them back into a slave canoe.
And then my husband was reading a book called The True History of Paradise by Margaret Cezair-Thompson and he just read a little passage, which said "though the slaves were in the valley of the ship their spirits had gone before them into the Blue Mountains" and that was my permission. You know I realised of course we are eternal and that's what I believe and so I set off looking for a canoe. And as soon as I found it I installed 1,357 of the miniatures into the canoe.
So I took these exact Redemption Song figures and put them in the canoe and made them face each other because I'm carrying the same message as the Redemption Song into the canoe. The Redemption Song piece is prayerful in its essence or I think of it as such: two people in communion with the divine and also with themselves.
My piece is, though it's initially as you look at it, it is about slavery but its, when you look closer and you see that the people are actually whole, the little figures in the canoe are whole and full and you know in a divine sort of feeling space, they are proud, they have come through it, above it and that's what's important. We touch on the past but we need to heal the patterns of the past, break from the past.
It’s just profoundly wonderful to be able to show at the International Slavery Museum. What an honour, how wonderful that my canoe has finally arrived here. I hope it will continue onto other ports that were involved with slavery, that is part of the mission of the work.
I would love people to take away hope, change, that we can change our lives that we can heal, that we are in fact healing and the fact that the canoe is even being shown here is a statement about that.