Picture preview: Leah Gordon portraits of Caste
Thursday 07 June 2012
Photographer and artist Leah Gordon explores the practice in Haiti of grading skin colour from black to white, referred to as Caste, in a series of new photographs.
The system, which revealed the extent of racial mixing in 18th century colonial Haiti, moves through black to white in nine degrees. It was developed by a French colonist, Moreau de St Mery, living in the Caribbean country during slavery, and reveals the horrifying - and cod scientific- racism of the time.
Mery classified the nine degrees of colour, from pure black to 1/8 white and 7/8 black. The terminology he chose was borrowed from mythology and is offensively bestial: Sacatra, Griffe, Marabou, Mulatre, Mamelouque, Quarteronne and Sang-mele to White.
Gordon was inspired by these strange racial classifications to make photographic portraits (in black and white) of the nine skin varieties. She positions herself at one end of the scale as the 'Blanche' and her partner, the Haitian sculptor Andre Eugene, at the other end.
Leah Gordon: Caste is at Riflemaker, London from 11 June to 14 July 2012, www.riflemaker.org
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