The ship Thomas is a prisoner aboard spends 5 weeks from 4th July 1794 in Rio. Perhaps because of his good behaviour in the messy business of the alleged mutiny he’s given considerable freedom on shore visiting the Antonine Monks and developing friendships with other residents.
Relationship with place
The opportunity to visit Brazil came through working on a project with The Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Curator Nuno Sacramento developed a project called ‘Slow Prototype’ pairing artists with artisans. I was one of the artists invited to take part in this project. From this engagement emerged what became ‘Makers Meal’ with its concept of social-sculpture paired with artisans given freedom to express local craft skills. The work started in Scotland, developed into a project in Portugal and then became the basis of a project with the Museu de Art in Niteroi in Brazil. Nuno subsequently invited me to come to Brazil to witness the project and offer something as part of his complex layering of performance, exhibition and cultural exchange.
I was privileged to be invited into the company of a wide array of Brazilians. Breno Platais the director of the Maquinho Centre brought me to his apartment for food, drinks and family life. Jefferson Moreira community worker in Palácio introduced me to many residents of the favela. Wellington Ribeiiro showed me how to make an improvised oven which we worked on together for two days. Christiano Mere took me to his studio and the beach and Nuno guided me through many community initiatives in Niteroi but also took me to the football and to the Feira de Sao Cristovao market in Rio de Janerio.
Tom arrives in Rio de Janerio as a prisoner of the British State escorted by the Royal Navy. He must have been relieved to be sent ashore. He’d survived intrigues on board the Surprize and despite petty jealousies, social control and a strict hierarchy with punishment beatings aimed at maintaining discipline, he’d fared better than many. The heat in port isn’t oppressive at this time of year and the food would have been better since he’d been on board ship for several months. The Portuguese colony was well established and busy. Slave labour would have been visible everywhere. Thomas would have considered the iniquities of this system when he was growing up in Glasgow. His family friends had dealings in trading, owning or overseeing slave labour. As a gentleman he had certain freedoms while the ship was being repaired and provisioned, he seems broad minded enough to have developed a friendship with the Antonine Monks at the Convento de Santo Antonio. At the end of his time there he exchanges gifts with them leaving a book by the religious sceptic John Hollis and writes on a flyleaf an inscription referencing Scotland’s oppression, so he’s clearly intellectually engaged, a free thinker and still an outspoken advocate of radical reform.
29th July – 9th August 2016
Flight Number KL705 from Schipol (Amsterdam) arriving Rio International Friday 29th Jul 17:45. Airfare £891.57
1st night in the Hotel Mercure Niteroi, Orizzonte.
Air B&B with Yvonne Billimore (Curator with SSW) on Rua Joaquim Tavora, (Praia de Icarai) Niteroi.
At the end of the visit I stayed 2 nights with Breno Platais (Director of Maquinho) in his flat in Icaria, Niteroi
Working as an artist I got most of my costs, flights and accommodation covered by SSW & Museu de Art Contemporanea, Niteroi.
As a goodwill ambassador and helper, my costs were low because I was always invited to eat with people or included when people were getting together socially.