Casting a Net for Meaning

A Review of ‘Call the Waves’

From Planet 248

by Sharif Gemie

Sharif Gemie relays moments of inspiration experienced at this Chapter exhibition, but ultimately frustration at the oblique nature of many of its works, whose meaning is as ungraspable as the water it conceptualises.

Indigenous Pacific Islanders devised a unique way to navigate across vast stretches of ocean without sophisticated navigational aids. They would lie on the deck of their ship with their eyes shut and try to feel the movement of the waters beneath them, sensing each swell, wave and ripple: in this way they would read the seas. Through this technique, they could guess the direction to an island and so guide their ships safely.1 The lesson to be drawn from their example is that water is not a box in which other creatures live or over which others cross, but a subject in its own right. Could a similar technique be applied in a more pointed, political manner?

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About the author

Sharif Gemie is a retired History lecturer living in south Wales, whose research has focused on minority peoples including Muslims and refugees in Europe. He interviewed Palestinian and Israeli artists Larissa Sansour and Oreet Ashery in Planet 197. His first novel, The Displaced, will be published in March 2023.