Sand + Water

In 1986 one hundred and fifty-two Tamil refugees, fleeing the beginnings of Sri Lanka’s bloody genocide of the Tamil people, were discovered adrift in lifeboats off St. Shott’s on the Avalon Peninsula and rescued by local fisherman Gus Dalton. They were issued Minister’s Permits and welcomed to relocate and seek employment while their refugee claims were processed.

In 2009 and 2010 respectively, cargo ships the MV Ocean Lady and MV Sun Sea were intercepted off the coast of British Columbia and their four hundred and ninety-two Tamil refugees were placed in detention, some for over a year. The federal government responded to their landing with aggressive legislation – some argued unconstitutional – that gave them increased power to detain migrants indefinitely and deny them a wide variety of rights. The landing of the MV Sunsea had a lasting impact on Canadian migration policy and how Canadian’s conceived of themselves.

The 40-tonne sculpture uses the physics of surface tension (how sand holds itself together), to create a metaphor of how citizenship (or the creation of an “us”) becomes foundational to who we are able to extend humanity to.


Arbitrary Lines: Refugee Law in Canada 1986 – 2012. by Gobhina Nagarajah

Reading Close: Joshua Vettivelu and Legibility in Absence by Curator Kailey Bryan

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