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The soul of Salt 2016/2020

The Soul of Salt was first realized on July 1st of 2016 during the Keti Koti festival as a public performance (De Ziel van Zout) at the Oosterpark in Amsterdam. July 1st is the day when the abolishment of slavery is celebrated. A large mount of salt, harvested from the sea, formed for a short period of time a sculpture in the middle of a public park and was the center point of a ritual, a blessing ceremony.

Undocumented people – mainly refugees from Syria and Africa – sung the 18th century slave song Many Thousand, while afterwards the sea salt was blessed by a Winti Priestess. Afterwards the audience could complete the ritual by taking a small portion of the blessed salt home in order to dissolve this in water as a symbol for dissolving the pain from the past.

For the participants in the ceremony the dissolved salt functions as a consolation in remembrance of their ancestors or relatives or as a symbol of compassion with the people who still suffer or die as a result of slavery, oppression and poverty.

For Manifesta 12 in 2018 in Palermo the ceremony was repeated during the opening on 17 June 2018.

This time young women from refugee centers in Sicily started the ceremony with the singing of the song and the salt was blessed by a Winti Priest. Palermo is one of the harbor cities along the Italian south coast where a lot of immigrants land. During the opening in Manifesta a policy change by the new Italian government came into effect by refusing boats with immigrants access to Italian ports. Hundreds of people drowned in the Mediterranean in the weeks following the opening ceremony.

“The sea salt refers to the salt which enslaved people refrained from eating so they could fly back to Africa. But it also stands symbol for mental and physical liberation. It refers to slaves crossing the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean on their way to plantations. It’s the salt of all the tears shed during slavery and colonialism. The mountain of 8000 kilos of sea salt depicts the suffering, but also the hopes and dreams of people. With this work I wanted to commemorate the past, but also transcend it. Indigenous people believe that the history lies before us because we can visualize the past.

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