Association of the Unknown Shore
In 2018, Kayle Brandon and Angela Piccini were awarded seedcorn funding through the Brigstow Institute to begin work on forming the Association of the Unknown Shore. This is a new, interdisciplinary art project that responds to the history and ongoing legacies of the three Inuit that privateer Martin Frobisher forcibly removed from Qikiqtaaluk (Baffin Island), possibly from Iqaluit (the place of many fish), and brought to Bristol in 1577.
While aspects of this history are well known, there is little in Bristol that acknowledges the presence of these people in city. According to the English writers, the people were called Kalicho (Calicough / Collichang), Arnaq (Ignorth / Egnock) and Nutaaq. Kalicho and Arnaq died in Bristol in the autumn of 1577, a month after their arrival in the city. Their deaths were registered and they were buried at St Stephens Church. Arnaq’s child, Nutaaq, died en route to London and was buried in St Olave’s Church. In the few months that the Inuit lived in Bristol the sound of Inuktitut was likely heard on the streets and the sound of Kalicho’s kayak paddles were heard on the city’s waterways.
Frobisher’s three voyages (1576-78) enacted complex events, including the disappearance of four sailors; the capture and hostage-taking of the Inuit brought to UK as ‘proof’ of a strange and ‘savage’ land; a resource-extracting venture which turned into the first major gold-mining fraud in European history and involved the embedding of Nunavut ore in the British built environment; and a bungled attempt to establish a British colony – including the building of a small ‘English’ house at the summit of what was named then as the Countess of Warwick’s Island and is now known as Qallunaaq (Kodlunarn Island) – which became the first step in the eventual establishment of British ‘sovereignty’ over this northern half of the American continents. Before he died, Kalicho paddled his kayak and performed a duck hunting display on the Avon. English oak, English stone, brass anvils and bells were left on Qallunaaq and have become embedded in that place. Two thousand tons of Nunavut Amphibolite were incorporated into the fabric of buildings in Britain. The material traces of Kalicho’s hunting displays – the kayak and bow and arrows – no longer exist. However, songs were exchanged between Inuit and sailors and the voyages mixed peoples, ideas, objects and practices to link the material pasts, presents and futures of the people of Bristol and Nunavut.
The Association of the Unknown Shore emerges out of a genuine desire to highlight the presence of Inuit in England at the start of colonial exploitation and to mark this in the city of Bristol. We acknowledge the need to involve the Qikiqtaaluk community specifically and Inuit communities and artists more broadly. Perhaps most importantly, we are actively inviting artists from the communities to whom these histories and ongoing legacies belong to join the Association and explore ways in which their practices might be supported meaningfully through longer-term projects.
The Association of the Unknown Shore currently involves Bristol Museums and Galleries, St Stephens Church and historians and geographers at Bristol University with research specialisms in the Elizabethan history of the city and in decoloniality. Kayle Brandon is an artist with a Jamaican and British background. Angela Piccini is an artist, university educator and first generation, Anglo-Chilean-Italian-Canadian settler from xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) territory. We have both adopted Bristol as our home and focus of our work. Other Association of the Unknown Shore members include Sue Giles and Lisa Graves of Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery; St Stephens Church; and at University of Bristol, Mark Jackson, School of Geographical Sciences and Evan Jones and Richard Stone, Historical Studies. The second phase of the Association’s work will focus on supporting Inuit artists to visit and work in Bristol.