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THE CASTE PORTRAITS
The Caste Portraits investigate the practice of the grading from black to white of skin colour, which marked the extent of racial mixing in 18th century colonial Haiti. Moreau de St Mery, a French colonialist living in Haiti, created a surreal taxonomy of race which classified skin colour from black to white using names borrowed from mythology, natural history and bestial miscegenation.
Each name corresponds with a percentage of the fusion of black and white blood. As Colin Dayan, a Haitian historian, comments, ‘Stranger than any supernatural fiction, the radical irrationality of Moreau St Mery’s methods demonstrates to what lengths the imagination can go if driven by racial prejudice.’
Leah Gordon made the Caste Portraits depicting the nine skin varieties, with herself at one end of the scale as ‘Blanche’, and her partner, Andre Eugene, a Haitian sculptor, at the other end of the racial spectrum as ‘Noir’.
2022 - Atis Rezistans|Ghetto Biennale, documenta fifteen, Kassel, Germany
2022 - Château des ducs de Bretagne
2021 - Origin Stories: Photography of Africa and Its Diaspora, Norton Museum of Art
2019 - The Body Says: I am a Fiesta, Norton Museum of Art, FL, USA
2017 - Chita Tann - joint show with Andre Eugene, Havre Magasinet Museum, Boden, Sweden
2015 - From Within and Without: History of Haitian Photography, MOA|FL Museum of Art, USA
2014 - 11ème Biennale de l’Art Africain Contemporain, Dak'art 2014, Senegal
2012 - Taboo, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Sydney
2012 - Caste, Riflemaker Gallery, London (Solo Show)