New work from MASTERPLAN on show in Australia by Martin Toft

New images from MASTERPLAN - my long-term research and photographic project exploring the transformation of Jersey from a rural community centred upon agriculture, maritime trade and tourism into an international finance centre is featured in CAPITAL at Ballarat International Foto Biennale- a group exhibition featuring work from Australian and international practitioners curated by Naomi Cass and Gareth Syvret

'Applying the methods used in photographic archives for recordingarchaeological finds of pre-historic material culture, he offers these images up to the historical record. When compared with the photographs of artefacts we are familiar with from museums of ancient culture they seem absurd and of questionable value. As such Toft’s photographs question the nature of finance work as a process of production and reflect upon the status of the intangible economies that have come to dominate contemporary life.’ (extract from exhibition wall text by curator, Dr Gareth Syvret)

If you are in the Southern hemisphere go and see the excellent programme of exhibitions at Ballarat open to the public until 20 Oct!

image" Pencil Holder #1, Pencil Holder#2 and Pencil Holder#3 from Masterplan © Martin Toft, 2019

pencil_holder #1, #2, #3.jpg

Occupation vs Liberation education project by Martin Toft

An excellent day of research at Jersey Archive looking through documents and public records from their various collections on German Occupation, including a letter from the Bailiff of Jersey expressing 'repugnance against the carrying out of a sentence of death on women' (Alexander Coutanche, 22 Nov 1944) - in this case the death sentence given to surrealist artists Claude Cahun (Lucy Schwob) and her lover and step sister, Marcel Moore (Suzanna Malherbe) for offences against the Occupying Authority (Nazi Germany.) Many thanks to Senior Archivist Stuart Nicolle for giving us an insight into some of the stories hidden in the depths of the archive managed by Jersey Heritage. Students at Hautlieu School are working on an extensive programme of study in their final year exploring the island of Jersey's Occupation and Liberation stories and will be producing a series of outcomes such as a collection of zines, a newspaper, outdoor installations and photobooks which will be exhibited as part of a collaboration with post-graduate students at École européenne supérieure d'art de Bretagne (EESAB) in 2020 for the 75 Liberation celebrations. Previous research at the Société Jersiaise Photo Archive and site visits to bunkers and German fortifications managed by CIOS Jersey have been completed and students are now focusing on personal stories, experiences and memories from islanders who lived through the occupation in 1940-45.

Dispatch 4: Mahogany trade in Belize and Honduras by Martin Toft

My time exploring mahogany trade with Jersey merchants in Belize and Honduras is coming to an end. It has been an incredible adventure, very intense and a real frontier experience with some surprising discoveries in archives and on the ground, following in the footsteps of some very brave and courageous men and women. Managed to track down several individuals and families directly connected with Joshua Gabourel who arrived in British Honduras in 1787 from the island of Jersey with his wife Elizabeth. However, soon after his arrival in Belize he established a long-term relationship with a coloured woman, Catherine White (a daughter of another prominent English sea merchant) that lasted until his death in 1800. They had three children, William, Joshua and Ann Gabourel (pet name Nancy) who together with their mother Catherine inherited his estates in Northern River, including mahogany plantations and slaves.

I found a copy of his last will in the Belizean Archives written on the 2nd Jan 1800 on his deathbed. Interestingly he describes his bequeath to 'his natural sons begotten upon the body of Catherine White' and refer to Elizabeth Gabourel as 'his loving wife' who will act as the executor of his will. Upon his death she returns to Jersey with their infant son, John Joshua (the only surviving child of four who later in life opens a private bank in St Helier.) This lineage of 'white' Gabourels never returned to Belize again and all people with the name of Gabourel in Central America are descendants from Joshua and Catherine, not necessarily directly by blood, but all connected with the Gabourel Estate as all their African slaves were named Gabourel too and in a lot of cases slave masters had children with slave women. This explains why there are many Gabourels with different complexion of skin colour. In the census records in Belize all kin from Joshua Gabourel and Catherine White are classified as 'coloured.'

In my last destination in the island of Utila I met Gabourels directly descending from Joshua and Catherine through their son William Gabourel who married Diane Usher, a white British woman. Their last born son Charles Fredrick Gerschon Gabourel married Annie Elizabeth Braddick on 30th Oct 1851 in Belize City. They had nine children before Charles was offered a job as a book keeper for Mr Cooper a merchant in Oak Ridge, Roatán in the Bay Islands (at that time also part of British Honduras.) Here he begins a liason with his boss' young daughter, Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Cooper and soon they elope to Mosquito Shore leaving his wife Annie Elizabeth and her 9 children in Roatán. She returns to Belize and soon thereafter is offered a job as the first midwife in Utila. All Gabourels in Utila are descendants from this remarkable lady and her children. Among other things, she established a Sunday School at the Methodist Church which is still carrying on until today.

Most histories celebrate 'brave white men', but throughout my research and time spend in Belize and Honduras my admiration is for Gabourel women both dead and living who, in some cases singlehandedly made sure the Gabourel genes, wealth and status continued, and in many cases prospered. The story about the Gabourels and other Jersey seamen who ventured out in the New World to make a living, settling down and establishing roots are complex and far reaching. These notes are a mere drop in the ocean. When I 'fell into' photography some 25 years ago through travelling, my starting point for making images was always the beginning of an adventure. Since then I have tried to maintain this 'adventurous spirit' in my work which allows me to explore different places and people through the power of photography and its inherent qualities as a story telling device. Important here is to understand your own position as an image maker within this power structure and to recognise that photography is always fiction.

My last image recorded in Utila is a portrait of Annie Athene Bodden Gabourel (91) who in her kitchen has a portrait of her great-great grandmother Annie Elizabeth Gabourel. Two powerful women in a family geneaology transcending time and space through colonial history and contemporary geopolitics in Central America. Today I'm leaving the Bay of Honduras where fortunes were made from extracting mahogany wood from its dense forests under strenuous hardship of African slaves and shipping it to North America and Europe to make fine bespoke furniture for their colonial rulers. In Joshua's days in late 18th century crossing the Atlantic by sea took an average of 6 weeks, if the wind was favourable. My journey from the island of Utila to the island of Jersey takes roughly 2 1/2 days using one ferry, four flights, a bus and two taxis. This may seem like a lot of effort, but I know which century I would rather explore the world in. #theseaflowerventure

Masterplan part of CAPITAL at Ballarat International Foto Biennale by Martin Toft

Work from MASTERPLAN - my long-term project exploring the transformation of Jersey from a rural community centred upon agriculture, maritime trade and tourism into an international finance centre opened this weekend as part of CAPITAL an international group exhibition curated by Gareth Syvret and Naomi Cass at Ballarat International Foto Biennale. Held in the former Union Bank, constructed at the height of Australia’s gold rush in 1864, now transformed into the National Centre for Photography; 'the exhibition explores the use of the photography as a method for reflecting upon systems of value and exchange in contemporary Indigenous and settler cultures. Drawing together Australian and international practices that encounter forms of financial, political, human and photography’s own capital, the project questions the capitalist model and its legacy. If the invisible hand of the market grips the world, then Capital proposes that art can reveal and question that which seeks to bind us.'

Featured artists Gabi Briggs (Aus), Peta Clancy (Aus), Mark Curran (Irl/De), Simryn Gill (Malaysia/Aus), Kristian Haggblom (Aus), Newell Harry (Aus), Lisa Hilli (Aus), Nicholas Mangan (Aus), Darren Siwes (Aus), Martin Toft (Jer), Yvonne Todd (NZ), Justine Varga (Aus) and Arika Waulu (Aus).

(Image: Darren Siwes, OZ OMNIUM REX ET REGINA, Silver female, courtesy the artist and Gagprojects)

#masterplan #capital #ballaratfoto


Te Ahi Kā featured on PH Museum by Martin Toft

Curators of the excellent PHmuseum have selected to feature my book Te Ahi Kā _ The Fires of Occupation today on their website. Thanks Rocco Venezia for making this happen. Book can be purchased worldwide with Dewi Lewis who has just launched a new website and distribution in North America. Go check it out!……/the-spiritual-relationship-between-m…


Dispatch 1: Mahogany trade in Belize and Honduras by Martin Toft

Today I will be heading out to Belize and Honduras to conduct research in national archives and make new photographs in response to the lucrative mahogany trade established by Jerseymen, such as Joshua Gabourel and Thomas Philip Pickstock in the late 18th century and early to mid 19th century.

Mahogany wood was used as ballast on ships in the Atlantic carrying trade and was used extensively by Jersey carpenters, ship builders and furniture makers. This work is part of The Seaflower Venture - a transatlantic project exploring the history of Jersey’s cod fishing trade with Canada and its international merchant networks in the West Indies, South America and Mediterranean.

Through the prism of colonial and family history it seeks to examine Jersey’s original wealth and contemporary prosperity as an International Finance Centre. It proposes to re-address parts of the legacy upon which the islands’s economic growth and development in the past, present and future has been told.

I have been researching this trip to Belize and Honduras for the past year and would like to acknowledge a team of excellent researchers who has assisted me in this endeavour Doug Ford, local Maritime Historian, Anna Baghiani Lewis (former Library Assistant at Société Jersiaise), Marian Kirkbride, Jersey-Gaspé enthusiast and Jane Edwards author of several books, including Philippe d'Auvergne a British Naval Officer born in Jersey. Collaboration also extends internationally to Daniel Finamore, The Russell W. Knight Curator of Maritime Art and History Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and several invaluable family historians and descendants of both Joshua Gabourel and Thomas Philip Pickstock residing in USA and Belize. Hosted by Photo-Archive Societe-Jersiaise and Société Jersiaise #theseaflowerventure