This piece is a commission for a private home, whose residents are from The Seychelles.
The Seychelles, officially the Republic of Seychelles, is an archipelagic state consisting of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, east of mainland Africa. Nearby island countries and territories include the Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and the French overseas departments of Mayotte and Réunion to the south; and Maldives and the Chagos Archipelago to the east. It is the least populated sovereign African country, with an estimated 2020 population of 98,462.
Seychelles was uninhabited until the 18th century when Europeans arrived with enslaved Africans. A transit point for trade between Africa and Asia, it was said that the islands were occasionally used by pirates until the French began to take control in 1756 when a Stone of Possession was laid on Mahé by Captain Nicholas Morphey. The islands were named after Jean Moreau de Séchelles, Louis XV’s Minister of Finance. It remained a British colony from 1814 until its independence in 1976. Seychelles have never been inhabited by indigenous people, but its islanders maintain their own Creole heritage.
The Seychelles Islands are the highest portions of an undersea plateau, the Mascarene Plateau, which measures approximately 60,000 square miles and rises one to two miles above the surrounding seafloor. This high area is northwest of the Madagascar Plate and formed from India leaving behind continental fragments as it broke off from Gondwana. Both the Madagascar microplate and Seychelles microplate lie within the Somali Plate.
-African and Arabian Tectonic Plates
Tectonic Plates, and creation of the Seychelles (200 Million Year time lapse)
Animation depicting the breakup of Gondwanaland and the plate tectonic evolution of the Tethyan ocean basins, and the subsequent formation of the Indian Ocean.
Leaders in Climate Action:
As a small island developing state inherently vulnerable to climate change impacts, The Seychelles has become a world leader in a complex partnership to refinance debt and simultaneously preserve ocean habitat. Check out this 2019 Ted Talk video about their collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.
When I started working on some ideas for this piece, I was thinking a lot about The Stone of Possession, how a white European sailor could just get out of his ship, drop a big stone on an island and claim it for France. And I was also thinking about mapping the ocean floor and specifically Plate Tectonics, which was a revolutionary idea in its time (and still could get you fired from your Geology teaching job in the 1950’s). Plate Tectonics led me to thinking about earth, clay, ceramics, stress fractures, releasing inner tension, and that led me to some words from Jim Melchert, which gave me my opening move.
Shattering…has become the opening gambit for a Zen-like interaction.
The gift the clay gives you as a partner is when you discover the interior structure. But it’s like someone who has just made a first move in checkers—it’s like a challenge, and then you move, then other person makes a move. Whatever I do, the tile comes back with a response.
-Jim Melchert, via Maria Porges
With the clients, we discussed a work that would be soothing, that had the feel of the ocean. I wanted an expansive sense of water, movement and an encompassing beauty that channeled ocean floor scarring, earth that was broken and ripped apart, and over millions of years fused into a new and beautiful form, worn smooth by the motion of the tides.