The Caribbean and the United Kingdom share a deep and complex history. One goal of the British Council’s arts programme is to encourage new transatlantic conversations about this affiliation. We Have Met Before is a group exhibition organised by the British Council and the National Gallery of Jamaica, bringing together two British and two Caribbean artists - Graham Fagen, Joscelyn Gardner, Ingrid Pollard and Leasho Johnson - whose works revisit the subject of transatlantic slavery and its legacy. A new publication (available for download below) accompanies the exhibition with texts by Tiffany Boyle of Mother Tongue and Dr Shani Roper.
Fagen’s video and sound installation, The Slave’s Lament, which was commissioned by Scotland + Venice for the Venice Art Biennale in 2015, forms part of the exhibition. The work is based on a 1792 song written by Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns, in which an enslaved man in Virginia expresses his longing for his distant homeland of Senegal. In Fagen’s interpretation, the song is performed by the reggae singer Ghetto Priest, a Rastafarian. Fagen’s work acknowledges Scottish involvement in slavery in the Americas, which is well-known in the Caribbean but less so in Scotland.
A special publication entitled Difficult Coversations (available for download below) charts the British Council's work in recent years to build relationships between the arts sectors in Scotland and the Caribbean. Underpinning this programme has been an aim to facilitate greater understanding between the peoples of both regions. This is particularly the case for Scottish and UK audiences which tend to have a rather Eurocentric and stereotypical view of the Caribbean, characterised by the notion of 'paradise' with exoticism and tourism on the one hand, and drug and knife crime, and homophobia on the other. By publishing Difficult Conversations, we seek to open dialogue across the waters and move towards a more mature and nuanced understanding of each other’s culture.