Clotilda – Silas Motse




~The Middle Passage Revisited~

Title: Clotilda

Medium:  Gypsum, Pastels, marking pen, charcoal and chalk on brown paper

Schooner Clotilda, an 1855 slave ship that successfully smuggled slaves into the US in 1860, despite the 1807 Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves. The last known ship to bring enslaved Africans to Mobile Bay in Alabama, carried 110 West African slaves from the port of Ouidah in present-day Benin. Thousands of vessels were involved in the transatlantic trade, but very few slave wrecks have ever been found. Remnants of Clotilda were found and pieced together by archaeologists, which helped piece together the stories and dreams of its descendants from Africatown in Alabama.

After slavery was abolished, many Africans longed to return home but lacked the means to do so. Some managed to purchase plots of land where they formed tight-knit communities. Africatown in Alabama is home to many descendant Africans brought on top the Clotilda. For years, stories passed down by elders tell of the story of the ship that smuggled slaves into the US. Unfortunately, these stories fell on deaf ears as many regarded them as lies, simply because it would prove that slavery continued despite its abolishment. In this piece I aimed to depict how the stories of the descendants lived, not only in their minds and hearts, but also in reality.

I have personified Clotilda’s spirit (the woman). She’s risen from the wreckage years later in order to revive the stories of its captives. She lived in the hearts of its captives as a light that would be revealed right before all hope was diminished. She birthed the stories for future generations, so they too can be at peace with finally knowing where they are coming from. She is a (s)hero with a cape, ready to shed light on the darkness of doubted validity and colour on the blandness of the lies. The painted colours on the cape, underwear, bra and earrings reflect my personal signature which is influenced by patterns of colours typically used in the Rastafarian flag, the Ndebele culture and flags of specific African countries. Green represents the rich vegetation of Africa; yellow represents the minerals in Africa like bronze, silver and gold; black and blue represent the middle passage; white represents a bright future; and red represents the blood of our ancestors.


Additional information

Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 189 × 150 cm