Zineb Sedira, Sugar Silo I & II, 2014. Chromogenic color prints, two parts, each 63 × 78 3/4 inches (160 × 200 cm). Gift of Isabel Stainow Wilcox, in honor of her grandfather Thomas Metcalf, trustee of the museum (1936–1946).
Zineb Sedira is a London-based, Franco-Algerian artist who for more than twenty years has explored universal themes of identity, mobility, memory, and humans’ relation to geography. Informed by her personal experience and background, Sedira uses photography, video, and installation to evoke questions about collective and individual memories and to shed light on past and present struggles of liberation and postcolonial movements. Interested in the sugar trade, its geographies, and the larger economic and political landscape behind this commodity, Sedira produced a series of photographs titled Sugar Routes tracing the global journey of sugar from locations throughout the world to the sugar silos of Saint Louis Sucre in France. From this series, Sugar Silo I & II is a diptych showing, on the left, an enormous mountain of cane sugar in a warehouse, and on the right, that same warehouse empty of sugar. The two photographs chart the collection and movement of sugar as a global commodity today. Algeria, a former French colony, is the largest sugar refiner in North Africa and its production has deep ties to French corporations. Drawing on the silenced past of Algeria, Sedira’s work visualizes the ongoing extraction of resources from the Global South for consumption by countries and economies of the North. This documentation of the global sugar trade in Sugar Silo I & II offers a poetic meditation on presence and absence as these are rooted in history and shape larger issues of migration, identity, and geography.