I Am Because You Are

Gherdai Hassell

The Bermuda National Gallery is pleased to present the first solo exhibition by Gherdai Hassell. I Am Because You Are opens to the public on Friday, March 12. 

The exhibition fuses painting, text and installation to create an immersive experience.

In 2019, the former Bermuda Biennial artist uncovered a family tree which traced her lineage back eight generations from Bermuda via St Kitts to Africa, where her ancestor was captured and enslaved. Driven by an exploration of her own heritage, in this exhibition, Hassell examines the lasting impacts of slavery: re-imagining the identities of enslaved Bermudians in a series of striking portraits, texts, and installation inspired by the Bermuda Slave Registers and historic photographs in the Bermuda Archives. 

In scrutinizing her personal history, Hassell weaves an imagined narrative of Bermuda and its people, merging past, present, and future. The exhibition is sponsored by the Department of Culture with support from the Bermuda Arts Council and the Centennial Bermuda Foundation. 

Dr. The Hon. Ernest Peets JP, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, visits the exhibition.

Dr. The Hon. Ernest Peets JP, Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, opened the exhibition. He said: “The Department of Culture is pleased to partner with the Bermuda National Gallery as a sponsor of Gherdai Hassell’s first solo exhibition – I Am Because You Are. This is an inspiring and moving exhibition that chronicles Gherdai’s family history and her connections to St. Kitts and Africa. More specifically, it traces our own difficult collective history as it relates to the Bermuda Slave Registers and how that journey intersects with Gherdai’s family story.

“We are particularly intrigued by this solo exhibition because it speaks to the kinds of artistic works and experiences relating to the African Diaspora that we also seek to highlight as part our Emancipation Programme. The Department of Culture is delighted to support Gherdai Hassell’s artistic voice and vision, and encourage the community to support this young Bermudian talent by going to the Bermuda National Gallery to see her exhibition when it opens to the public.”

The exhibition was inspired by the Bermuda Slave Registers and historic photographs held in the Bermuda Archives.

Peter Lapsley, Executive Director of the Bermuda National Gallery, said: “This exhibition began for us in 2019 when we saw Gherdai’s work in an exhibition at the Bermuda Society of Arts here in City Hall. We were struck by the immediacy and authenticity of her collaged portraits and encouraged her to consider applying to the Bermuda National Gallery’s 2020 Bermuda Biennial themed Let Me Tell you Something sponsored by Bacardi Limited. 

“Gherdai applied, and was accepted by the international jurors with her impressive artwork Interactions Bermuda quickly becoming a visitor favourite and based on the artwork produced by our education programmes a student favourite too!  

“In getting to know Gherdai it became clear that she had an important voice and as part of our multi-year series exploring our place, our people, our stories, and our future, it was important that we give her a national platform. This has led to a year long process, complicated by a global pandemic, of working with Gherdai to create the exhibition I Am Because You Are. I want to thank Gherdai for her effort and engagement and also for her courageousness in making this exhibition. 

Visitors are encouraged to share their reflections on their experience.

He added: “This exhibition is brave, challenging and beautiful and it is our hope that it will not only provide inspiration and contemplation, but that it might help us all reflect on our shared history.

“I would like to thank Minister Peets and the Department of Culture, whose sponsorship of this important exhibition was integral to it’s development and implementation. I would also like to thank the Bermuda Arts Council for recognising and supporting Gherdai’s work as an artist through their artist grant programme, and to the Centennial Bermuda Foundation for their kind support of the exhibition as part of their connected communities programme.”

I Am Because You Are by Gherdai Hassell opens to the public on Friday, March 12 and runs through until September.