“When did you two first start talking about this project?” I ask my guests. It’s January 14, 2020 and The Indigo Project, the latest in a long series of thematically based multimedia projects from the fertile curatorial mind of Tafelmusik’s Alison Mackay, will open on February 27. We sit surrounded by samples of indigo-dyed fabric, some old, some new, some borrowed – all very definitely blue. A fat binder of images from which Raha Javanfar is designing the projections for the show, sits on the table; over the course of the next
45 minutes, Mackay dips into it from time to time.
“Around a year ago …?” Mackay says, looking inquiringly across at Suba Sankaran, her prime collaborator on this project. “These things always take about two years to incubate...maybe a bit before that…I would have to go look at email. I began to think about this as a topic when I was working on Safe Haven. I have always been very inspired by the work of Natalie Zemon Davis – she wrote the first Return of Martin Guerre and she’s in her 90s now – she’s Aaron Davis’ mother, if you know him – and she’s just won, a couple of years ago, this enormous international history prize because she’s one of these cutting- edge people, examining court documents and things like that for written records that give glimpses into the lives of people who, perhaps as the less powerful, fall through the cracks of history. And she has done a lot of work on Sephardic Jewish refugees who went to Surinam and then in turn became plantation owners, and there was one family that were indigo growers there. I asked her to read the Safe Haven script for me, and she had some suggestions; but she also gave me some material about indigo at that time and it made me think, oh this would be a compelling topic! …”