Alberta Whittle ‘Dipping below a waxing moon, the dance claims us for release’

Installation view, 'Dipping below a waxing moon, the dance claims us for release', Holburne Museum, Bath, 2023
Holburne Museum, Bath

The exhibition, Whittle’s first in a public museum, directly addresses 18th-century histories; especially those shared by the Ball’s Plantation in her native Barbados which was owned by Guy Ball, the great-grandfather of Holburne Museum founder Sir Thomas William Holburne (1793 – 1874).

‘Dipping Below A Waxing Moon, The Dance Claims Us For Release’ transforms the Holburne’s Roper Gallery into a mis-en-scene, where a group of seven sculpted figures are captured in various stages of the limbo. Whittle takes what many westerners now regard as a traditional Caribbean dance and, through the sculpted figures, freezes moments of their physical contortions to highlight how enslaved Africans were forced to perform for the amusement of their owners. The ensemble acts as a metaphor to show that something that appears to be ‘fun’ is far from benign and that for members of the Caribbean diaspora, daily life in the West still requires a form of contortion or performance.