The claim: Underwater sculpture pays homage to drowned slaves
At the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Grenada stands an underwater sculpture that netizens say commemorates the slaves drowned during the Atlantic slave trade.
“It honors Africans who were thrown/jumped overboard from slave ships during the mid-passage of the transatlantic slave trade,” it reads. a Facebook post from April 22which garnered over 1,000 shares in three days.
However, the sculptures do not represent slaves. The sculptures are based on children from diverse backgrounds and symbolize unity and resilience, after the artist, Jason deCaires Taylor. They were designed to aid in the recovery of the region’s ecology in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
USA TODAY has reached out to the Facebook user who shared the complaint for comment.
The carvings were not meant to pay homage to the slaves of the Middle Passage
Created in 2006, the underwater sculpture “Vicissitudes” has nothing to do with the Middle Passagethe part of the Atlantic slave trade in which Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, according to the artist.
Vicissitudes features a group of ethnically diverse children holding hands and facing the ocean. “They are a symbol of unity and resilience [and] an example of how we are inscribed and shaped by the nutrients we absorb,” Taylor explained on her website.
What appear to be shackles between the characters are actually “structural connections,” the site says. He notes that the perception of the chains and proximity to the Middle Passage stimulated the widespread interpretation of the work as a tribute to slaves.
Taylor created the sculpture to contribute to the environmental sustainability of Molinere Bay by providing habitat for marine species such as corals, algae and sponges, the site says.
Taylor is well known for setting up projects which focus on human-aquatic ecological interaction.
In a 2015 Ted TalkTaylor noted that the underwater statues are constructed using neutral pH materials that “provide a stable, permanent platform, which is textured to allow coral polyps to attach to the sculptures.”
Our opinion: False
Based on our research, we rate the claim that an underwater sculpture honors drowned slaves as FALSE. The sculptures were designed to symbolize unity and resilience, and they include children from diverse backgrounds, the artist said. They were installed to help the growth of corals in the area.
Our fact-checking sources:
- USA TODAY, January 16, 2020, Grenada: why you should visit the Caribbean’s underrated spice island
- AFP Fact Check, December 19, 2019, These statues weren’t meant to pay homage to drowned slaves —but the artist is happy they’re “stimulating debate”
- Jason deCaires Taylor, accessed April 27 Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park
- CBS News, September 17, 2021, An artist turns the seabed into art by creating underwater museums
- //Jason deCaires Taylor via// Ted Talks, October 2015, An underwater art museum teeming with life
- Smithsonian Magazine, June 10, 2014, Can underwater art save the ocean’s coral reefs?
- US Department of the Interior, June 25, 2018, Artificial reefs create homes for marine life
- Associated Press, September 9, 2004, Hurricane Ivan devastates Grenada
- Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed April 27 Middle Passage
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