Senghor Reid and Hope Ginsburg with Nitika Achalam

A two-night event at Great Shiplock Park in Richmond, Virginia, for 1708 Gallery's annual InLight festival. An installation on Friday and a performance on Saturday with Senghor Reid, Nitika Achalam, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, HH Hiaasen, and Kenzie Smith.

"Air Patterns is a series of guided participatory exercises combining breath awareness, meditation, and movement. Reid and Ginsburg have each explored healing in their practices through the use of water and diving; In Light offers an opportunity for the two artists to collaborate. The artists, joined by Nitika Achalam of Project Yoga Richmond, and a group of illuminated meditating scuba divers will conduct the workshop. Through movement, breathing, sound, and spoken word, the audience will be invited to learn strategies for increased mindfulness and physical awareness."

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Curated by Tiffany E. Barber, Wesley Taylor, and Park C. Myers.

Scuba gear for Air Patterns provided by Jim McNeal of The Dive Shop Richmond.

Thank you for the invitation, Wes Taylor. Thank you for your support, Unicia Buster, Christine Lockerby, Park Myers, and Emily Smith. Special thanks for supporting the production, Joshua Quarles.

Air Patterns Introduction and Land Acknowledgment 

Hope Ginsburg, November 2021

Welcome to Air Patterns. We’re so happy you’re here to join us for this breath workshop at InLight. Thank you to 1708 Gallery for having us, and warm thanks to each of you for being here. A few introductions before we begin. I’m Hope Ginsburg and I live and work here in the city. 

[Senghor and Nitika introduce themselves.]

And we’re pleased to be joined by artists Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, HH Hiaasen, and Kenzie Smith.

Air Patterns takes place in three parts, and you’re very welcome to join in the practices we’ll be offering. Or please feel free just to watch and listen. The piece will last about an hour, and there will be a chance to speak together afterward.

Tonight’s intention is to offer guidance in practices centered on breath awareness, meditation, and grounding in the body–all inspired by air and water.

We wish to approach our location for this work with respect and humility, including its complexities. This feels like an important part of the healing practices we’re sharing.

We’ll begin by honoring those people who have come before us on this site. And we’ll offer context for this ground on which we sit at Great Shiplock Park, on Tsenacomoco land in so-called Richmond, Virginia.

Alongside us is the river that was known as the Powhatan, renamed the James by settler colonizers following their arrival in 1607. At that time, this area was home to 14,000 Indigenous people, who inhabited the land for over ten thousand years. We honor the Pamunkey,

Chickahominy, and other tribes known, unknown, and forcibly disappeared. These

Algonquin-speaking tribes sustained themselves with the fish, game, migratory birds, and fertile ground of the river.

[Senghor reads.]

From this river and canal site, we name and honor the enslaved people of African descent who arrived in Richmond at the Manchester docks during the Transatlantic slave trade in the late 1600 and 1700s. The slave trade existed on both sides of the river. By the late 1700s and into the 1800s, Shockoe Bottom and this canal system fueled the intranational slave trade, transporting enslaved people from Virginia to other states’ markets farther south by ship.

The transportation system of the James River and Kanawha Canal, by which we are surrounded here at Great Shiplock Park, was visioned as a waterway stretching to the Ohio River Valley in service of securing the economic power of the state of Virginia. We honor the enslaved people of African descent who formed the majority of the labor force, along with immigrants, blasting and digging these canals.

Built in 1854, the restored ship lock of Great Shiplock Park raised and lowered ships up to 180 ft long and 35 ft wide, connecting the navigable part of the James River–and the coastal plain of Virginia–to the Richmond city docks. This waterway became a transport hub for the tobacco warehouses on Dock St and for shipping tobacco and wheat products globally. It opened the city to trade and drove industry, making Richmond a world port. Factories on Tredegar St. and Belle Isle relied on the labor of enslaved people to drive the industry that coincided with the emergence of the railroads in the 1850s. The rise of the railroads continued to make Richmond the central point for the intranational slave trade.

Just a quarter-mile from where we sit was the north bank section of the Confederate Navy yard. Equidistant was the Confederate Navy Yard south. Each burned in 1865. They were replaced by the plant and silos of a cement company built in the 1940s, a fertilizer plant, and wharves for the railroads.

In 1880, the railroads superseded the canals, marking the end of an era. This Chapel Island area continued as an industrial site. At the turn of the nineteenth century, the Trigg Shipyard built its war vessels here. From 1880-1925 a coal yard resided just beyond the Great Shiplock. It was eclipsed on the site until the 1990s by a sand and gravel yard and concrete plant. Nearby Rockets Landing, now a residential area, housed an 1870s brewery, a cedar works–extant through the 1950s–and more recently, a chemical works.

[Nitika reads.]

Today, twenty of Chapel Island’s twenty-five acres are a retention basin for the city’s combined sewer system. We sit amidst the five acres accessible for recreation, offering us this yard on which we’re gathered. A nearby kayak and canoe launch empties into the tidal section of the James River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay before joining the Atlantic Ocean.

Fifty-five years ago, a Kepone chemical spill impacted wildlife in the James, with effects amplified by erosion and dam building. We nod to kindred species in the river, the shad, white perch, rockfish, smallmouth bass, herring, and catfish. After decades of effort, we can see the bald eagles and great blue heron that have returned to nest on its shores and the Atlantic sturgeon spawning in its waters again.

We thank the river and its outdoor spaces for offering places for connection during the COVID-19 pandemic and its assault on our breath. We thank you for your attention to this introduction, and we invite you to join us in the restorative breath practices that follow.

Thank you.

Image: David Hale
Image: David Hale
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz
Still from video by Nicholas Seitz