The Sea is History: Discourses on the Poetics of Relation

The Museum of Cultural History, in collaboration with Goethe-Insitut, is proud to present the international conference at the crossroads of cultural history, contemporary art, museums and poetry. The conference addresses various topics related to migration, displacement, and the continued effects of colonization through talks and discussions that are intended to raise awareness, tolerance, and hope for the future.​

Bildet kan inneholde: Hånd, Finger, Væpne, Muskel, Animasjon.
Foto: Still from Isaac Julien Omeros Paradise 2003/ Photocredit: Kirsten Helgeland, KHM

The Sea is History: Discourses on the Poetics of Relation explores themes related to postcolonial discourse and builds on the exhibition The Sea is History, at the Museum of Cultural History, on view March August 7-18, 2019.

Participants have been invited to reflect on the sea and its influence on migration as a fluid, open-ended, and unresolved cultural discourse, particularly in terms of the struggle to address social inequality. Sea currents, like humans, move back and forth connecting countries and continents, through time and history. Likewise, migration and displacement are not limited to a single geographic region or historical era. These recurring themes in the exhibition relate to a timeframe that begins begins with the trade of enslaved people from Africa and continues until today. As a symbol for movement and flows, the sea is where the world’s intertwined stories and overlapping histories unfold. 

Humanity’s paradoxical relation to the sea is the second theme that the seminar seeks to explore. The sea predates humanity and moderates the earth’s climate and natural resources. Although human time represents only a brief moment in geological time, the sea has influenced every aspect of human culture. The sea’s role in human travel, trade, access to natural resources and human survival is indisputable. Nevertheless, the sea, during its brief contact with humanity, has become a tragedy of the commons.

Contributions explore themes that the artists address through works presented in the exhibition: 

  • Migration through the lens of religious persecution.
  • The generations that were uprooted and separated by the slave trade.
  • Race, colonialism, and displacement.
  • The social, political, and emotional terrain of postcolonial identity.
  • Systems of discrimination, segregation, and rejection.
  • Imperialist practices of oppression and violence.
  • Norway’s role in the Transatlantic slave trade.


The Sea is History, curated by Selene Wendt, is on display at the Museum of Cultural History, UiO from March until August 2019. The title is inspired by the epic poem by the St. Lucian Nobel laureate poet Derek Walcott. The reference serves to emphasize the poetic undercurrent of the exhibition, while also highlighting the relevance of great Caribbean thinkers, such as Derek Walcott, Stuart Hall, and Édouard Glissant within a wider geographical and theoretical context. Metaphorically speaking, the works can be understood as part of an expansive sea, the ebb and flow of which is never-ending, and cyclical.


May 23

  • 9:00-9:30 Registration and Coffee
  • 9:30-9:45 Welcome by Håkon Glørstad, Director, the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo
  • 9:45-10:00 Hannah Wozene Kvam, moderator. Introduction of session and speakers.

Session one

  • 10:00-10:30 Selene Wendt, Independent curator and founder of the Global Art Project. "Reflections on The Sea is History: From Poetic Politics to Visual Poetry"
  • 10:30-11:00 Christopher Cozier, Artist, writer, curator, co-director of Alice Yard. “Suspended Forms and Horizon Lines"
  • 11:00-11:30  Annie Paul, Writer and critic. "On Stuart Hall"
  • 11: 30-12:45 Lunch

Session two

  • 12:45-13:00 Hannah Wozene Kvam, Moderator. Introduction of session and speakers.
  • 13:00-13:30 Ishion Hutchinson, Author and poet. Poetry Reading
  • 13:30-14:00 Louisa Olufsen Layne, Post.doc. ILOS, UiO. "Linton Kwesi Johnson: From Tropic to Underground"
  • 14:00-14:30 Grace Aneiza Ali, Assistant Professor and Provost Faculty Fellow in the Department of Art & Public Policy at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University,  Curator, Writer and Editor. "Artistic Responses to Crossing the kala pani (Hindi for ‘dark waters’)"
  • 14:30-14:45 Coffee
  • 14:45-15:45 Panel discussion
  • 15:45-16:45 Exhibition viewing

May 24

Session three

  • 9:30-9:45 Coffee
  • 9:45-10:00 Hannah Wozene Kvam, Moderator. Introduction of session and speakers.
  • 10:00-10:30 Thomas Talawa Prestø, Founder and Artistic Director Tabanka African & Caribbean Peoples Dance Ensemble. "Carry the Water- Ancestral Drops in a Frozen World. Bridging The Atlantic through Corporeal Orature"
  • 10:30-11:00 Michelle Tisdel, PhD, Social anthropologist/Research Librarian, National Library of Norway. “The Sea is Heritage: On Narratives, Discourse, and Cuban Museums”
  • 11:00 - 11:30 Michael Barrett, Curator Africa, Museums of World Cultures. "Finding the Black Atlantic: The Atlantic World and the African Diaspora in Swedish Museums and Archives"
  • 11:30-12:30 Lunch

Session four

  • 12:30 -12:45 Hannah Wozene Kvam, Moderator. Introduction of session and speakers.

  • 12:45 - 13:15 Nanette Snoep, director of The Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum/Cultures of the World, Cologne: “In Practice: Rethinking Museums, Borders and Fluidity
  • 13:15 - 13:45 Lill Ann Körber, Professor of Nordic literature, media and culture, Aarhus University: "The White Atlantic? Representing Scandinavian Colonialism"
  • 13:45-14:15 Michelle Eistrup, visual artist, arts producer and instigator of artistic collaboration: "All Suns Forever" / BAT (Bridging Art + text)
  • 14:15 - 14:30 Coffee
  • 15:30 -15:00 Panel discussion and summary
  • Conference fee includes lunch, coffee, tea 10 Euro/Students  5 Euro. Payment by card at site

The Conference is supported by

For further information, contact

Emneord: migration, decolonize, colonial history, museums, ethnographic museums, contemporary art, litterature
Publisert 26. mars 2019 08:32 - Sist endret 15. okt. 2020 08:37