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Following the Gourd (2022)

Following the Gourd by Ebun Sodipo (UK) was developed in collaboration with young LGBTQ+ people online, led by a small group of Black trans people: The Cartographer’s Committee. The work exists both as an online platform, and here as an installation. Taking its title from an African-American spiritual song of the same name, the work seeks to make Black trans voices heard and visible, through the building of an archive of stories and lived experience.

The original coded message within the song's lyrics allowed enslaved people to follow a safe path towards freedom: "Well, where the great big river meets the little river, follow the drinkin' gourd". Referring to star maps and reading the night sky, Sodipo’s work navigates the experiences of The Cartographer’s Committee: the rituals they perform, the idols they follow, the things they possess, and the way these are shared with each other.

Together, these stories and digital artefacts act as a living archive of constellations: a collaborative proof of existence, community, and joy. As Ebun says, “trans people of colour don’t often have access to their history, and when they do, it’s dark and full of pain. I want to bring a history that doesn’t hurt, a history that heals”.

Discover Following the Gourd at FACT as part of an installation environment in exhibition Let the Song Hold Us, or explore the work at home by clicking here.

Find out how you can upload your story to the archive here.

Interactive website, installation environment

Commissioned by FACT (in collaboration with VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow, Ireland) as part of its Learning Programme, funded by Artsformation, a European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

Produced with The Cartographer’s Committee: Ana, Jolliff, Malia, Xavier Williams. Many thanks to GYRO, Hidayah UK, African Rainbow Family, Stonewall UK, Gendered Intelligence, and the D&D group at FACT. Website Developed by Florian Brueckner.