Performance to commemorate unsung hero's role in triumphant voyage of discovery

Dancer Kirill Burlov as the ghost of a Tahitian Polynesian navigator and priest called Tupaia in a performance being due to take place in commemoration of Captain James Cook’s voyage from Plymouth to Australia on HMS Endeavour 250 years ago

A University of Birmingham artist and historian is set to lead an outdoor procession as part of a performance and exhibition in commemoration of Captain James Cook’s voyage from Plymouth to Australia on HMS Endeavour 250 years ago.

Professor Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, of the University of Birmingham’s Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies, has dedicated a research project to the history of HMS Endeavour and what it collected.

Called Cook's New Clothes, the project has been a collaboration of international artists led by Prof Carroll, including Māori weaver Keren Ruki, piratologist Simon Layton, fashion designer Ruby Hoette, filmmaker Ludovica Fales, sculptor Nikolaus Gansterer, choreographer Kirill Burlov, and composer Mo’ong Johanes Santoso Pribadi.

Together, the group will lead an outdoor procession on the banks of the River Tamar, in Plymouth, in a performance that will be a reinterpretation of the departure of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour 250 years ago.

The performance will include music, regalia, dance, drawings and spoken words in a participatory performance that will begin on September 30th at 3pm at Plymouth’s Royal William Yard and will lead to Devil's Point with the performance ending at 4.30pm.

The performance will be similar to a funerary procession and will commemorate a Tahitian Polynesian navigator and priest called Tupaia, whose remarkable navigational skills and Pacific geographical knowledge were utilised by Cook during the voyage to Australia.

The performance will highlight how much of the credit for Cook’s successful exchanges with Māori people when the voyage arrived in New Zealand, should in fact be given to Tupaia. Tupaia died in Batavia during the voyage back from the Pacific.

It will include a Māori cloak woven from plastics, gathered from the Pacific Ocean, and an orchestra will be performing music composed by Mo’ong on instruments also made out of recycled plastic found in the ocean.

Beyond being a performance, the piece is an act of mediation in a larger process guided by Prof Carroll's research findings that focus on analysing how Western institutions obtained, curate and display non-Western intellectual property and material culture - making a case for its repatriation.

Professor Carroll said: “The procession is a community building performance, whether political, personal or religious. “On one hand the funerary procession and on the other the civic commemoration for Tupaia lays bare legacies of colonialism centred upon colonial heroes. We say: ‘Dare to see, the king is naked. History is ours to redress’.”

As well as the performance, there will be a multi-media installation exhibited site-specifically in the historical dockyard at The Atlantic Project in Plymouth from September 28th until October 21st.

Ends

For more information please contact:

1. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, Professor of Global Art.

2. Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Sciences), University of Birmingham, Email: or tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6681, or contact the press office on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • Prof Carroll’s books ‘Art in the Time of Colony’ and ‘The Importance of Being Anachronistic: Museum Reparation and Contemporary Aboriginal Art’, have also explored the political importance of material culture by using objects to revisit the much-contested nineteenth-century colonial period, and the issue of their repatriation. 
  • The Atlantic Project is a pilot for a new international festival of contemporary art in the South West of England, taking place in public contexts across Plymouth from 28 September 2018. In the lead-up to Mayflower 400 in 2020, marking the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ voyage from Plymouth to the ‘New World’, the aim is to test out the elements that will make up a potential new ‘biennial’ in the UK. The Atlantic Project has been developed as a core partnership between The Box (formerly Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery) and the University of Plymouth. Hosted by The Arts Institute, The Atlantic Project in 2018 is part of Horizon, a two-year visual arts development programme (2016-18) across the city, led by Plymouth Culture, with funding from Arts Council England’s ‘Ambition for Excellence’ fund and Plymouth City Council.