Exclusive thoughts of “Relic Traveller” by Larry Achiampong

Larry Achiampong is a British-Nigerian contemporary artist who grew up in East-London. His artworks including solo and collaborative projects experimenting with different media such as imagery, aural, visual archives, live performance, sound and installation, and aims to explore and present ideas relating to class, cross-cultural and post-digital identity.

Relic Traveller is a series project examining the idea of colonialism, post-colonial identity, immigration and the cause of psychological trauma in modern society.

The Relic traveler in the final phase, Sankofa’s screening

Final phase of Relic Traveller: Sankofa

Sankofa, the final phase of Relic Traveller is covering the elements of objects, audio and visual images. A green costume attached 2 Pan African flag patches, is fitted on a female mannequin with an astronaut helmet on its head. It is placed close to the exhibiting room in the gallery. The room is quite dark since it is screening the final phase of Relic Traveller. The video has a black child who is wearing an identical style of the outfit just like the one placed on the female mannequin, a young female voice-over, and background music. Besides, there are 3 African Union flags are hung up on the side of the wall.

A green costume with 2 patches of Pan African flags attached on the left arm and upper left chest near the left shoulder and an astronaut helmet, on a female mannequin
A part of the final phase of Relic Traveller screening and it covers 2 of the Pan African flags hanging (around 0.09s)on the left side of the screen

The idea of Sankofa

Larry admitted that the series of Relic Traveller has a political undertone. The Brexit situation is one of the things inspiring him to create the final phase of Relic Traveller: Sankofa. It aims to explore and to investigate identity, nationalism, the Sci-fiction element and technology, and those lead to futurism and psychological trauma.

A part of Sankofa screening

Symbolism in Sankofa

There are many symbolic elements we can see in the final phase of Relic Traveler: Sankofa, as Larry constructed. The Pan African flags (significant colours which use on most African Union flags) and a voice-over with a significant British accent represent 2 cultural elements. The green military costume and an astronaut helmet associate with sci-fiction and it signified the purpose of looking for a new resource, technologies, and futurism. A child signified continuity. The exhibition covers a child, black human, and female elements, these identities signified weakness on social discourse and the lower social status. Covering these identities on the screen seems an empowering act.

A scene of Relic traveler, the only character in Sankofa, and he is wearing the green costume with 2 patches of Pan African flags attached on his left arm’s area

Behind the story of Sankofa

Larry wanted to present an imaginary idea of the “pure state” which associates with the situation of Brexit: a political fact that Britain decided to separate from the European Union and it links to the idea of nationalism. The progression becomes a relic as the idea is presented through the only character Relic Traveller in the short film, who is searching for the ideal and exploring places.

Larry found more connection to his Ghana heritage of what his family taught him not to forget, compared to Britain where he grew up. He is confused about British culture but knowing it is related to colonialism and his British accent. He has an aspiring thought that he wanted to take things further in a way of “seeing the western is exotic” rather than the other way around in the past which is the east. He thought that the social discourse of British colonization has some positive impacts to their colonized countries in history is a reason influencing people to believe in Brexit, cutting off from the European Union leads to “pure state”. Meanwhile, as an example of its opposite, he brought up the new passport program in Africa and passively praised the idea of enhancing mobility between nations in the Africa Union.

Besides, he believes Racism still exists today and it is somehow closer than we think. Globalization is a modified tone of being racist by first defining others and passively criticizing of being different, and causes the need for changes to tone down the differences.

It was good to have a conversation with Larry about the final phase Relic Traveler, Sankofa.

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