An Equitable Human Assertion Rasanblaj I

Gina Athena Ulysse

Biennale of Sydney

Biennale of Sydney
Sydney, Australia

“What if our point of departure in encounters with difference stemmed not from domination, but an impulse of radical vulnerability? What would we turn to if we did not cling to power? Would we recognise and comprehend that difference as an opening? Expansive. Limitless. Extremities. Revelation. A space to meditatively confront and embrace our socially limited imagination? Would we become more aware of our sensibilities … feel a multitude of sentiments, feel that, as Toni Cade Bambara asserts, ‘the revolution begins with the self … in the self’. Deference. Humility. Surrender. Grace. Can these sentiments be reflected? What reflects them?”

Acting as a form of rasanblaj (a Haitian Kreyol term which can be translated as an assembly, compilation, enlisting and regrouping of ideas, things, people and spirits), An Equitable Human Assertion is a site-specific work that gathers together materials from around the world, including Australia, which are not simply objects but have agency, as well as multiple functions and significations, sometimes helping to draw together shared histories. Kwi – shells made from the kalbas or calabash tree (Lagenaria siceraria) are used as containers for eating and storage, carvings, musical instruments, and as religious objects. Here, they are the simple, sacred and profane holder of rasanblaj and become living things, creating possibilities for new encounters.

Acknowledgements: M. Jacqui Alexander, Makini Armand, Robyn Autry, Phanenca Babio, Sandra Baker, Andra Basu, Lisa Bailey, Ruth Behar, Rachel Beauvoir-Dominique, Evan Bissell, Diane Austin-Broos and Frank Broos, Amy Calandruccio, Manoucheka Celeste, Carole Charles, Kyrah Daniels, Edwidge Danticat, Dumorne family, Jacqueline Epingle, Sibylle Fischer and Liam Murphy, Daniella Gandolfo, Leah Gordon, Angeletta Gourdine, Ken Guest, Andreas Gurewich, Haiti Cultural Xchange, Haiti Illumination Project, Nesha Haniff, Faye Harrison, Kendra Ing, Melissa Johnson, Charles and Susan Knight, KnightAthena Productions, Katja Kolcio, Regina Langhout, Colin Wayne Leach, Claudine Michel, Nanette Orly, Shanti Parikh, Mark Penutto, Michael Phillips, Donna Rak, Kate Ramsey, Melissa Rosario, Jennifer Scott, Anu Sharma, Mimi Sheller, Simeon family, Victoria Stahl, Paul Stoller, Lola Sounigo, Kate TenEyck, Arlene Torres, Elizabeth Traube, Ulysse family, Krishna Winston, Yanique Hume.


  • Title: An Equitable Human Assertion Rasanblaj I
  • Creator: Gina Athena Ulysse
  • Date Created: 2020
  • Location Created: Cockatoo Island
  • Physical Dimensions: dimensions variable
  • Provenance: Commissioned by the Biennale of Sydney with generous support from Open Society Foundations, and assistance from the United States Government and NIRIN 500 patrons. Courtesy the artist.
  • Type: installation
  • Rights: Biennale of Sydney
  • Medium: Kwi (calabashes), beads, cowries, leaves, and found objects
  • Edition: 22nd Biennale of Sydney (2020): NIRIN

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