A World of Islands: On Palms, Storms and Coconuts
Curated by Ligaya Salazar
Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston Upon Thames
11 May – 23 September 2023

A World of Islands considers the movement of indigenous knowledge, practices, materials and people, and historical and current fabrications of tropical utopia and dystopia. Locating the ‘tropics’ as both a mythological and real place with shared colonial and ecological trauma but wildly divergent histories and cultures, the exhibition unpicks some of the clichés and relocates agency in the ‘tropical’ narrative.

This exhibition explores these themes in the context of one of the largest diasporic tropical populations, dispersed in over 100 countries through forced, government-sanctioned and voluntary movement across oceans. Here, A World of Islands brings together artistic perspectives and research on the Philippine archipelago, its climate, its people and their movement over seas and oceans.

Filipinos have played a disproportionate role in worldwide maritime trade, currently making up 20% of the international maritime workforce. The importance of the sea in a place where it makes up five times more space than land is explored through Derek Tumala’s work. The experience of contemporary Filipino life and diaspora is highlighted through artworks by Carol Anne McChrystal, Ronyel Compra, Alex Quicho and Stephanie Comilang that touch on memories, rituals and practices of home and community-making.

The exchange of plants and craft, building, food and medicinal knowledge during the period of the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade between Mexico and the Philippines (1565 – 1815) had a significant impact on both places. Stanley Picker Fellow Ligaya Salazar’s project explores practices of ‘making home’ amongst Filipinos displaced by the galleon trade in coastal pacific Mexico through a collaboration with Ceramica Suro in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Photos by Ellie Laycock