The subject matter and the nature of the artists’ collaboration articulate many themes that appear repeatedly across the rest of the film program. Each artist embodies Black identity differently due to their situation within different socio-cultural contexts. Camille, a Jamaican immigrant to Canada, Jerome a Parisian ex-patriate in Canada and Cauleen an African American who travelled to Canada as a visitor specifically to create this film. The situation of the puppets in the film, in three distinct landscapes made from cardboard and other found material form an archipelago of islands where the puppets exist and observe their surroundings.
The interview highlights the typical dis-connection that members of the African diaspora often feel to land and geography, with unclear relationships to the idea of a homeland. Cauleen Smith’s puppet lives on a volcanic island that could explode at any moment, reflecting the volatile political environment she finds herself in within the United States. Camille Turner’s puppet lives on an ethereal and icy island evocative of the iconic, stark arctic landscapes of Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris. Jerome Havre’s puppet exists on an isolated sandy island from which he can observe the world, reminiscent of Havre’s experience navigating both a national French identity along with a racialized identity which distinguishes him as ‘Other.’
The title of the film, Triangle Trade refers to the Triangular Trade system, where slaves, crops and manufactured goods were transported between West Africa, the Caribbean and American colonies. The film reflects how each artist has dealt with the legacy of colonial racism which was the true product of this system and continues to persist today. The film’s narrative finds the specificity of its relationship to the “American Dream” and the realities of settler-colonial existence as a person of colour; for whom existence on all land is tempered by a feeling of loss, a feeling of being both at home and an alien everywhere.
“When I think about “nothingness”, I think about the bodies at the bottom of the ocean: three hundred years ago in the Atlantic, forty years ago off the coast of Florida, and right now, today, off the coast of Italy.” – Cauleen Smith