Celebrating the sacredness of the ocean through an online exhibition open to all 

The  exhibition ‘Our Ocean is Sacred, You Can’t Mine Heaven’ – a radical “an-archive” on intangible ocean heritage and a multi-genre exhibition raising consciousness and celebrating the sacredness of the ocean – is now open for all to explore online. The exhibition premiered as part of the South African National Arts Festival and was also showcased at the Zero Gallery in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2022. Curated by Hub researcher Dylan McGarry, the exhibition was conceived during ongoing dialogue with academics, artists, scientists, traditional healers and knowledge holders, heritage specialists, activists, lawyers and passionate citizens who are working in solidarity to reframe narratives and policies regarding the ocean and its shared future.  

“This event wasn’t just an exhibition; it became a collaborative hub, inviting diverse backgrounds to engage with the central theme of the sacred ocean. Our multimedia approach aimed to support Indigenous communities in unveiling the intangible heritages of the ocean ethically. Collaborating with civil society groups like the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) and Natural Justice (NJ), and working closely with Dr. Jackie Sunde, a Hub researcher from University of Cape Town (UCT), we strategically integrated early versions of artworks as appendices to the brave affidavits submitted by Small Scale Fisher leaders, the real heroes of this story. It was their accounts and affidavits against Oil and Gas giant Shell and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, that really won the case, and who deserve the THE Awards “Oscars of Higher Education” nomination that the Hub was up for”, McGarry says.   

photo: dylan mcgarry

McGarry continues:  

“The artworks’ role in this case, has stolen the limelight, and I must reiterate that it is the Small-scale Fishers who own this victory. It remains to be seen in what way the artmaking truly had an impact on the judicial reasoning of the court, or in moving the Judges in the case. Speaking to another Judge here in Makhanda about the case (who is not involved directly in the Shell case), he said that judges will have to look at everything that has been submitted to them as evidence, including the appendices, and there is no doubt they looked at the artwork too. So he feels that as a judge if he was to see these materials, they would move him greatly and influence his reasoning. In any case the legal victories recognized the sacred nature of the ocean, solidifying the potential of our exhibition as a future archive for evidence of intangible ocean heritage, and opening up new ways in which artists can be in solidarity with struggles against the economic rush for the oceans.” 

We invite all our readers and partners to experience the Exhibition in Virtual Reality here. 

Photo: Dylan McGarry