Suchitra Mattai A Complex Survey of the Caribbean Diaspora

Marina Reyes Franco, Art News, April 12, 2023

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Notable work by Suchitra Mattai’s An Ocean Cradle, a large-scale textile piece made of vintage saris given to the artist and bells that reflect on her Indo-Caribbean heritage, migration, and matrilineal knowledge. Though not strictly archivistic, the collecting nature of the work builds an interwoven archive of the histories of women in Mattai’s life. This oceanic landscape connects them in multiple ways by bringing people together across oceans, reminiscent of the migration of Indian populations to the Caribbean during the 19th and early 20th centuries.


Toward the end of the exhibition, in Teresita Fernández’s 2020 work Rising (Lynched Land), a monumental sculpture of a palm tree hovers over the gallery floor and confronting viewers with conflicting ideas that merge in this plant. As a sign of tropical leisure and a metaphor for colonial exploitation, the palm tree symbolizes the oppressed bodies of Caribbean peoples in the wake of violent histories and environmental disasters. Its roots, covered in burlap and rope, seem ready to be replanted.


After that, an unforgettable ending to “Forecast Form” is provided by María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s Sugar/Bittersweet (2010), an installation consisting of Yoruba spears, African and Chinese stools, and disks of sugar in various states of production, from dark molasses to refined white sugar, as metaphors of racial categories. The work evokes the violent landscape of the plantation or people assembled in a rigid grid of power—the latter, one hopes, with weapons that will be picked up to fight back.

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