Within spitting distance of Clifton beach, a playground to the privileged white South Africans, lie the remains of the San Jose paquette de Africa, a working Portuguese slave ship that sank with 212 slaves onboard in 1794, their hands and legs shackled as they drowned. A few kilometers from where the wreck lies Cargo ships enter and leave Cape Towns busy port laden with thousands of shipping containers, their contents invisible, rarely discussed. Playing on the theme of the ‘invisible’ our project Container uses the hidden world of goods crisscrossing the globe in anonymous shipping containers to highlight the lives of the invisible millions that continue to be enslaved in new forms of modern day slavery. The shipwreck, those invisible containers and contemporary economic servitude is what drives us from South Africa to tell this story to the world.
Positioned at the intersection of virtual reality and installation art, the project invites people into a surreal maze like world of containers, where they witness the truth behind the ‘invisiblized’. Our journey begins at Clifton beach that hides the secret of the drowned slaves. The experience is about unraveling this secret. The viewer is taken on a cyclic journey that ends where it once started. A mix of documentary and constructed reality we show black bodies trapped in an endless historical cycle of servitude. As a part of the cyclic process people emerge from water, take us on an unknown journey into the world of products and people eventually sinking into the ocean again
The ocean cannot speak but has ways in which it reminds us of those who were chained, those who drowned, those immersed in new forms of economic servitude and those made invisible. It is not only the outsourcing of the production of commodities to the developing world that seeks cheap labour; world major cities are filled with invisible people forced into economic and domestic servitude. People have become commodities, which is the very definition of slavery: people as products.