Lectures & Literary past

Race in the Colonial Past and Present: Virtual Conversation with La Vaughn Belle and Jeanette Ehlers

Tue—1-12-2021
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TUE—January 12—12 PM

*This event will take place virtually via Zoom.*

American-Scandinavian Foundation invites you to a virtual conversation between artists Jeanette Ehlers and La Vaughn Belle on “Race in the Colonial Past and Present,” moderated by Ursula Lindqvist, on January 12. In the mid-17th century, Denmark established a colonial presence in the Caribbean and participated in the transatlantic slave trade until the early 19th century. Though Denmark was the first European country to abolish the transport of enslaved Africans in 1792, approximately 120,000 people from present-day Ghana were brought to the Danish West Indies (now the United States Virgin Islands) to plant and harvest sugar cane. The emancipation of slaves on the Danish West Indies occurred in 1848, and the Virgin Islands’ former plantation economy collapsed. In 1917, Saint Croix, Saint John, and Saint Thomas were sold to the United States and introduced into yet another national narrative.

In 2018, Virgin Islands artist La Vaughn Belle and Danish artist Jeannette Ehlers created the monumental public sculpture entitled I AM QUEEN MARY, inaugurated at the Danish West Indian Warehouse in Copenhagen. This project was the first collaborative sculpture to memorialize Denmark’s colonial impact in the Caribbean and those who fought against it, challenging Denmark’s role in slavery and the commemoration of its colonial past and aiming to change the narrative around this history by centering the stories and agency of those who were brought to the Danish West Indies.

Listen to the two artists discuss colonialism and how commemorative representations can impact the public discourse surrounding Danish colonial history. What do these representations mean for people of African descent living in the Nordic Countries? What do they mean to the Virgin Islands? And how can they intervene in the historic, current and future relationship between Denmark and the Virgin Islands?

The event will take place as a Zoom webinar. Please ask questions in the chat or send them in advance to  info@amscan.org. Registration is required; please sign up at the link above.

About the Speakers

Jeannette Ehlers is a video, photo and performance artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. For years she has created artworks that delve into ethnicity and identity inspired by her own Danish and Caribbean background. Her pieces revolve around big questions and difficult issues, such as Denmark’s role as a slave nation—a part of the Danish cultural heritage, which often gets overlooked in the general historiography. She has exhibited and performed in such institutions as AROS, Aarhus, Denmark, the Museum of Latin American Art, Los Angeles, the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, the McKenna Museum of African American Art, New Orleans, Nikolaj Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center, Denmark and the Pérez Art Museum, Miami.

La Vaughn Belle is a multidisciplinary artist from the Virgin Islands. For years her work has responded to questions surrounding the coloniality of the Virgin Islands, both in its present relationship to the US and it’s past one to Denmark. Her work borrows from elements of architecture, literature, history, archeology and social protest to create narratives that challenge the colonial process.  She is best known for her work reinterpreting the material artifacts of colonialism to create an alternative archive. She has exhibited her work  in such institutions as the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, El Museo del Barrio, NY, Arts of the Americas Museum, Washington, DC., the Royal Library of Denmark and the Centro de Wilfredo Lam, Cuba.

About the Moderator

Ursula Lindqvist, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chair of Scandinavian Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College, where she teaches courses on Nordic film, literature, cultural studies, folklore, (post)colonial studies, peace studies, and gender, women and sexuality studies. She has been a U.S. Fulbright Fellow to Sweden and an American-Scandinavian Foundation fellow to Denmark and Sweden. Dr. Lindqvist is author of Roy Andersson’s Songs from the Second Floor: Contemplating the Art of Existence, and co-editor of A Companion to Nordic Cinema and of New Dimensions of Diversity in Nordic Culture and Society. 

Her articles have appeared in a number of scholarly journals, including PMLA, Modernism/modernity, Space and Culture, and African and Black Diaspora. At Gustavus, she is a member of the Indigenous Relations Working Group seeking reconciliation between the college and the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ Oyate (people of the Seven Council Fires, also known as the Dakota/Lakota/Nakota).

 
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