Mekhala Dave

Ocean in Us: Rights and Relations

26 April 2024, 6pm


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How can we be inspired and moved by thoughts which translate into action for oceanic ways of thinking from moments of co-creations in the context of extractivism and destruction of our ocean? Global politics are entangled and deeply rooted in colonial ties of the past but also in the present from neocolonial motivations. In the face of our planetary crisis, how can we take action?

Through her experience in advocacy, Mekhala Dave will contribute to the emerging rights and relations from her PhD thesis theory that builds on violence on the ocean as a form of colonial measure. She examines and confronts decoloniality from the scholar Rob Nixon’s ‘slow violence’ and archipelagic framework from the Pacific & Caribbean thinking and practice and how these translated into her co-curated exhibition Undulating Currents: A Group Show which opened in November 2023 at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. The exhibition presented works of contemporary art from black diaspora, particularly, from ecofeminist, queer and indigenous lens, that touched upon the materiality of oil and water – the two of the most exploited resources. The exhibition pressed on the need for conduits of decolonial discourse, emerging forms of curating as practice and knowledge from black art and history, often interpersed with indigenous knowledge systems, attempting to reveal hidden extractivist tendencies, and yet a collective healing power embedded in the Black Aquatic, a concept by the scholar Paul Gilroy, that deliberate thinking-with multiplural identities and multi-species harnessing from journeying across the sea during the great Slave trade.

Mekhala Dave is a lawyer and art academic based in Vienna. She is the ocean law and policy analyst/legal researcher at TBA21–Academy and a doctoral researcher in contemporary art history and theory at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. In her past and current work in legal practice, as well as in her PhD research, she advocates for a social turn in artistic practices and explores encounters located across knowledge spheres and communities in the Global South at the intersection of activism and newly shaping ocean policy. From her lived experiences across borders, she draws inspiration and spiritual guidance from water to the questions of historicity and the search for emerging “new” relations of identity and belonging.