Vessels of Tears

Beyond Memory, Three
Wrecks That Still Hurt

The schooner that brought the last 110 Africans to be American slaves, in 1860; a boxcar that carried many of the millions of Jews to Germany’s Auschwitz extermination camp, during WWII; a boat that sunk in the Mediterranean in 2015, killing over a thousand migrants.
For their riders, hope for breaking chains, breathe freedom, or find a future, was yanked out of their reach. But even stripped of their dignity, or forced to renounce name and identity, their lives were not wasted. Now, more than ever, they must be known by all.
It’s an intriguing coincidence. The Clotilda, a slave ship just-found in Alabama; a cattle car used in the Holocaust, being exhibited in Manhattan; and the rescued wreck of the Barca Nostra, on display at the Venice Biennale, are sharing a meaningful moment now.
Slavery. Racism. Xenophobia. Neither vanquished, as believed, nor gone. As their murderous spell threatens the world again, it’s timely that all three vessels have been given a new life as beacons of memory and resistance. History is not made to be repeated.
Some are weary of attributing to objects the significance of the pain and suffering experienced by actual human beings; it risks dehumanizing them further. But it beats forgetting it all. It jolts people out of complacency, and gives them agency over the immovable past.

THE LAST SLAVE SHIP, BURIED IN THE MUD
The story of the Clotilda, the boat that transported kidnapped West Africans to Alabama, is well known. The last slave ship to reach the U.S., at the dawn of the Civil War, it was among other things, breaking the federal ban on ‘importation,’ in effect since 1808.
To avoid being caught, after delivering its heartbreaking cargo, the captain burned and sank the boat. But in a generation, the then former slaves founded Africatown, and helped build this country. They did not forget, though, and now there’s proof for the stories they’ve heard.
The discovery is worth being part of the national conversation about the black African-American experience, just like Reparations for Slavery, and prison and drug reforms. All are about giving people and their stories their due acknowledgement and place in history.

THE SINISTER CARGO OF NAZI TRAINS
In America, circa 2019, when a white supremacist goes in a rampage, killing Jewish people, or another Latino child dies at an immigration facility, the president gives the first a nod, and ignores the other. No wonder that there’s been quite a few of both lately. People of a certain age know how this winds up.
Auschwitz, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a show about Germany’s biggest concentration camp between 1940-1945, features a railcar just like the ones Nazis used to ship thousands of Jews and others to gas chambers. But it teaches more than that.
Hate and murder are the stock and trade of psychopaths in power, but they rely on forgetfulness to come back again. If the murder of six million is no longer (more)
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Read Also:
* The Journey
* Floating Enigmas
* Second Variety

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Amnesiac Swimmer

Mystery of Italian Who Thought He
Was Greek Is (Only Partially) Solved

When the Dubai police rescued a man who was swimming far off shore, last August, most people thought it was the happy ending for a story that could have gone terribly wrong. And that would be the end of it. Well, they would be terribly wrong, themselves.
The man, who identified himself as “Greek footballer” Andreas Kostantinidis, seemed otherwise utterly confused and could not remember anything else about himself. When authorities realized Continue reading

Iceman Cometh

Meet Oetzi, the
5,000 Year Old Man

The ancient shepherd, whose body was found in 1991 in the border of Austria and Italy, has now finally shown his face. Dutch artists Alfons and Adrie Kennis reconstructed it based on his facial bone structure and suddenly, you can actually picture him climbing the slopes of the Austrian Alps.
Europe’s oldest human mummy, he’s believed to have met a violent death at about 45 years Continue reading

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Berlusconi’s Gift to Mars, King
Tut’s Loss & Iran’s Penis Cemetery

Italian billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is not the only politician, or rich person, who believes the world is his playground. But you’ve got to give it to him: he’s astonishingly oblivious to the horror that usually greets his decisions, mostly guided by the pursuit of fun, candy and more power. As for us, we just happen to be camping around, mostly annoying the hell out of him.
So when the 1800-year old classical Roman statue of Venus and Mars was loaned to his office, Berlusconi immediately made plans to fix it.
As it turned out, the likeness of the ruler of war had his penis chipped off circa 175 C.E., and the goddess of love was missing a hand too. Never mind that it’s been exhibited that way at the Palazzo Chigi in Rome for years.
The other day, the work was completed and delivered to his door, and Berlusconi was beside himself. After all, a man known Continue reading

I Hate Mondays

Italian Artist’s Newest Work
Points Out His Shock Values

This gigantic finger greeted surprised traders arriving for work at the Milan Stock Exchange Monday morning. “Crippled Hand,” the 36 foot tall Maurizio Cattelan sculpture is also known as, of all things, “L.O.V.E.”
It’s part of a retrospective of the artist with a knack for flirting with controversy and free publicity. “La Nona Hora” (The Ninth Hour), for example, depicting the pope being hit by a meteor, was panned by critics and church officials alike. But the public, of course, loved it.
Despite what its imagery obviously suggests to Americans, though, L.O.V.E. is actually a commentary on, again of all things, that infamous Heil Hitler salute. But with Cattelan one never knows. Another one of his sculptures, supposedly decrying the horrors of Holocaust, shows three kids hanging on a tree. It was cut down and defaced by angry protesters.