May 08, 2019-Aug 11, 2019

Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold

A Postcolonial Paradox

“We might consider that colonial discourses have been successful because they are so productive: they enable some colonizers to feel important, superior, noble and benign, as well as gaining the complicity of the colonized by enabling some people to derive a sense of self-worth and material benefit through their participation in the business of Empire.”

The above quote from Leed’s Professor, John McLeod’s book, Beginning Postcolonialism (Manchester University Press, 2000), epitomizes the complexity of the “Postcolonialism Paradox” the curators are attempting to unpack through this project.

Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox is an exhibition that looks at the legacy of European colonialism in the Caribbean through the work of 10 contemporary artists. Whether connected to the Caribbean by birth or focused on the region by choice, the exhibiting artists use their work as a means of examining the relationship between the power structure, those who are controlled by it, those who benefit from it, and those who actively seek to liberate themselves from it.

The exhibition title is inspired by some of the core products that have historically been produced in, and exported from the Caribbean to the rest of the world – with a focus on Europe. Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold remain highly valuable commodities and commercially important goods. However, because of their ubiquity, and the passage of time, these items have lost much of their historical gravity and visibility as key drivers of European colonialism.

According to the European Commission, the main exports from the Caribbean to the European Union are fuel and mining products, such as petroleum gas and oils; bananas, sugar and rum; minerals, notably gold, corundum, aluminum oxide and hydroxide, and iron ore products; and fertilizers. However, the historic toll of colonialism remains evident in the lives of hundreds of millions of people who are the descendants of those who suffered, sacrificed, and even gained from its expansion and apparent decline.

A key driver of the exhibition is the theory that colonialism has continued to exist in other forms, and is in fact spreading through the export of soft power, the use of military force, the control of international financial and banking mechanisms, as well as the increase in globalization.

Artists in this exhibition

For further study, please download our Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold Educator Resource Guide

Coffee, Rhum, Sugar & Gold: A Postcolonial Paradox is curated by Dexter Wimberly, independent curator and Founder & CEO of Art World Conference and Larry Ossei-Mensah, Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and Co-Founder of ARTNOIR. 

Major funding for this exhibition provided by