Carrying throughout the installation Toli Toli (2018) in a revival of a forgotten past, elderly voices sing a song that was part of a traditional children’s game in rural parts of Basse-Terre, an island of Guadeloupe. In the game, a child would find a toli toli, a butterfly chrysalis the shape of a tiny finger, point it in a direction, and playfully imagine a distant or (un)known destination through the words of the song. Today, the children of Basse-Terre no longer know this song.
Reflecting on knowledge systems, gestures, and narratives that are disappearing or already lost, Minia Biabiany explored the old technique of weaving bamboo fish traps for the installation Toli Toli. With great difficulty the artist managed to find a fisherman who could teach her this skill. In the work, weaving becomes a metaphor for the painful entanglement of Guadeloupe’s tropical environment with the colonial past and present. Biabiany’s traps cast shadows on the floor. Like ghosts they disappear and reappear, depending on the movement of the viewer through the space. Shifting between revealing and erasing the meshwork of an elusive past, the spectator enters the schizophrenic state of the islands.