Threads Unravelling

by Gherdai Hassell

Two years on from her first solo exhibition, I Am Because You Are, held at the Bermuda National Gallery in 2021, Gherdai Hassell has opened solo shows in the U.K., at HOME Manchester, and in the U.S., at Mehari Sequar Gallery in Washington D.C. Both exhibitions feature textile works – a new medium for the artist, as she continues her visual exploration of identity through the lens of language and history

Primarily a collage artist, Hassell’s mixed media practice centers on an investigation of her Bermudian heritage. “My work is an exploration of identity, through the experimentation and exploration of media,” she says. Of the large-scale soft sculpture pieces displayed here, she explains “I wanted to approach textile, quilt and tapestry making in the same way I approach collage – by building layers.” She adds: “I’m a multidisciplinary artist, and that means making work in whatever medium best communicates what I want to say.”

Both the sculptures and works on paper are part of the Onion Spawn series, an ongoing body of work inspired by Nellie E. Musson’s 1979 book Mind the Onion Seed, which examines the contribution of Black Bermudian women, from the days of slavery when “the onion was to Bermuda what cotton was to America” to the present day. Hassell uses the onion as metaphor for layers of identity. She says, “In Bermuda, Bermudian people are affectionately referred to as ‘onions’, which dates back to the island’s production of the onion during slavery. Black women were ‘minders’ of the onion seed, the main caretakers of this cash crop that made Bermuda wealthy.”

Much like Gherdai Hassell’s creative practice, Mind the Onion Seed began as a search into Musson’s own ancestral roots before evolving into an exploration of both Bermuda and Black womanhood as a whole. “In my practice I’m exploring layers of history and the complexity of Caribbean heritage and identity” explains Hassell., “I’ve come to embrace the multifaceted nature of my practice. My practice is alive, just like my onion spawns – moving, growing, morphing, evolving.”

Exhibition curated by Eve Godet Thomas. Sponsored by Skyport, Conyers, Orange Bay Company Ltd and Michelle Seymour Smith. Threads Unravelling by Gherdai Hassell is on display in the BNG Project Space through to March 2024.