Undercurrents: Art and Ocean in Africa and the Pacific

An exhibition of DEEP Fund projects at the Glasgow School of Art, 2023
Our Sacred Ocean, 2022

The ocean is essential to life on Earth. It provides over half the planet’s oxygen, absorbs carbon and supports the livelihoods of millions of people. Climate change, over-fishing and pollution are among some of the pressures that threaten the ocean’s health. While there is growing global awareness of the harm being caused, responses most often exclude communities most reliant upon the sea. A source of sustenance and commerce, the ocean also evokes emotions of awe, tranquillity and contentment. Human relationships with the ocean are as varied as each wave that breaks upon the shore.

Undercurrents: Art and Ocean in Africa and the Pacific brought together the creative outputs of eight community-based art projects that surface emotional connections with the ocean. Indigenous knowledge, practices and worldviews were showcased in diverse media ranging from film and song to tapestry and wearable art, created by makers based in Ghana, South Africa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Recontextualising the ocean as a space that unites rather than separates communities and countries reveals inherent common themes. From the tides of the Pacific to the currents of Africa, the sea is regarded as a sacred place of identity, nurture, healing, spirits and ancestors. Each of the featured works of art embodied locally self-determined priorities, values and aesthetics that reflect the specific circumstances of their production. The projects were supported by the Hub’s DEEP Fund to prioritise marginalised voices in global debates about marine policies and management.

learn about the community-based art projects:

Co-produced murals by Lloyd Newton in Solomon Islands, Alvaro Sumaki Kuautonga in Vanuatu and Pax Jakupa in Papua New Guinea

A collection of wearable art from the Association of Solomon Islanders in Creative Fashion

An illustrated children’s book by the Erromango Cultural Association, Vanuatu

A song and video produced by Straight Family Entertainment, Ghana

A graphic novel by Drama Queens, Ghana

A documentary film by Eric Debrah Otchere, Ghana

A tapestry created by the Keiskamma Art Project, South Africa

A collection of oral histories, stories and artworks compiled by the Urban Futures Centres and the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, South Africa


Undercurrents: Art and Ocean in Africa and the Pacific was curated by Dr Lisa McDonald (Post-Doctoral Research Associate, School of Simulation and Visualisation, The Glasgow School of Art, and DEEP Fund Programme Manager). The DEEP Fund programme was created and led by Prof Stuart Jeffrey (Professor of Digital Heritage, School of Simulation and Visualisation, The Glasgow School of Art, and Co-Investigator of One Ocean Hub).


Ray Agyemang, Ruby Allen, Kirsty Barr, Vicky Begg, Jack Bishop, Siri Black, Laura Boomer, Amelia Bywater, Jenny Brownrigg, Scott Carballo, David Chapman, Paul Chapman, Jess Crowe, Lauren Dobbins, Kira Erwin, Jessica Gillies, Maria Gondeck, Malcolm Hay, Cait Heaney, Michaela Howse, Amie Kulaya, Craig Laurie, Charisma Machu, Alan Matthews, Clair McClelland, Laura Merilainen, Elisa Morgera, Mohammed Nasir, Anna Naupa, Doris Odoi, Justina Radclyffe, Katie Reid, Chris Roberts, Joanna Stawnicka, Amanda Stewart, Viktoria Szaboova, Freda Wickham, Francesca Zappia