The Jumbee Sea marks Lisandro Suriel’s first solo exhibition at Foreign Agent gallery in Lausanne, Switzerland. The show is rooted in magical realism, weaving together mythology and hauntology, building a mysterious and sensuous world featuring otherworldly figures of Black cosmology within a dreamlike tropical habitat. Drawing from the artist’s on-going project Ghost Island, which explores the complex, dynamic and undocumented web of influences of Black Atlantic identity, The Jumbee Sea contests colonial histories of the West Indies, specifically in Saint Martin.
The artist’s main inspiration were the stories of ghosts or jumbees as they are known in the Caribbean, who are tied to distant memories from various African lore. As part of the anthropological research guiding his artistic process, Lisandro Suriel’s work started by documenting the tales and folklore of his community in Saint Martin: forgotten stories, superstition and the engagement with magic forces deeply rooted in nature that feed Black Atlantic identity.
Through the quiet disturbance of lush foliage, rippling water and crashing waves, the uncanny presence of phantom figures and animated masks hiding in nature, the visitor is invited into the unseen, the unheard and the untold of Black imagination of the Atlantic world. In Suriel’s work, fiction and reality undo each other, opening up unconventional ways of knowing. The Jumbee Sea is less about what is known and taught in the history books, but rather about the “not knowing” and the “unknown” of history and identity. It is about the spiritual, the ghostly, the haunting – the “what survives after loss”. In this exhibition, the artist reconfigures local collective memory by resurrecting lost Black Atlantic voices.