About Akeelah Bertram: Return

What would a world without borders look like? What does it mean for us to be together beyond our historical ties? How can we stand in place of what is lost?

“Between 2018 and 2019 I visited Ghana, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and the USA. During these trips I spoke with people from the African diaspora who were living and experiencing their shared heritage to varying degrees and with differing impacts. These experiences sparked questions about the ways people within the diaspora can connect to sites of their heritage if they are not physically able to visit them. I was inspired to develop Return – an installation that will create emotionally engaging exchanges between people in the diaspora focusing on locations in West Africa, North and South America, the Caribbean and Europe.” - Akeelah Bertram

Return was an interactive installation by Akeelah Bertram. This exhibition was part of Yorkshire Sculpture International (YSI). It explored what the body can become, and what it means to remember someone unknown. This is part of a larger project using technology to make links across the African diaspora.

Bertram has explored ideas of ripples and currents across the Atlantic ocean. Her work examines borders beyond land masses, and the imprint of a body becoming a tribute. She has experimented with transforming the body into light and vibrations. The exhibition included maps that challenged the idea of fixed borders. Visitors could record a digital trace of their body and movements. This became part of a memorial to unknown ancestors who were transported during the transatlantic slave trade.

YSI hosted a conversation between Akeelah Bertram and writer and artist Season Butler. They discussed Bertram's work and particularly Return.

Return is produced by York Mediale. Supported by Yorkshire Sculpture International, Arts Council England, The British Council, Invisible Flock, University of Leeds and East Street Arts. Concept and fabrication: Akeelah Bertram. Technologist: Simon Fletcher. Sound Collaborator: Record LTP. Research resident: Carmen Okome.

Akeelah Bertram (b.1990 London) is a cross-disciplinary artist who lives and works in Leeds. She has exhibited nationally and internationally since studying at the University of Leeds, Hochschule für Bildende Künste, (Dresden) and the Royal College of Art (London).

Bertram is interested in collective narratives, challenging perspectives and new modes of communication. She produces work across new media art, interaction design, sculpture and performance. Her work explores heritage and identity through creative technology. Bertram is currently the Gatenby Fellow in Contemporary Art, University of Leeds.