I was in West Oakland yesterday at the studio of painter Eesuu Orindide. His latest body of work is titled “Sugar.” It touches on a lot of the personal, political, social and historical problems inherent in the production of sugar.
Installed in the blue room of a West Oakland Victorian house the exhibit ranges from small pieces on wood to an altar decorated with sugarcane and Barbadian rum. The well known solicitation for a kiss “give me some sugar” has a bitter, but enlightening, edge to it when placed in the context of Orindide’s collages on plywood. Likewise for the term “Sugar daddy.” As I moved from piece to piece around the room the geographic points in the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade became more evident. Rum from Barbados, the word Haiti in sparkling sugary white letters and figures with machetes for cutting cane. Sugar was an integral part of the triangular Euro-colonial trade that included the manufacturing of rum and the sale of rum to raise money for the purchase of enslaved Africans. The room revealed its two tones of blue and as it did I imagined them to be painted in a sort of Atlantic blue. The disproportionate affects of diabetes on the Black community bring the theme of this show into a startling contemporary relevancy.
The largest piece with the word Congo written in sparkling black letters is an even more startling statement. It raises the issue of Western neo-colonialism’s grab for natural resources and its devastating affect well into the 21st century. Beneath the word Congo is written “Coltan is the new sugar.” For those that may be unaware of it, the element known as coltan or columbite tantalite, is a necessity for the manufacturing cell phones and computers. Eighty percent of the world’s coltan comes from the Congo. With that statement Orundide neatly makes the point that colonial past is present.
Here are just a few of my photographs from the show.