Francois Piquet talks about Timalle

24 October 2017 by Sarah

Man with red sculpture - screenshot from Timalle film

Image taken from a screenshot of “Timalle”. A Film by Francois Piquet, 2017

Have you seen the Timalle artwork in our Ink and blood; Stories of abolition exhibition yet? It features draft reparations forms and is a re-enactment, through sculpture and performance, of the enslavement process. It is the first time this piece of contemporary art has been displayed in Europe. Come and see it for yourself at the International Slavery Museum. Or you can also watch an extract of Timalle film, by Francois Piquet, and listen to him blogging about why he created his artwork, and what it means:

1. What is Timalle?

Timalle is a sculpture made of scrunched reparation forms, evoking a skinned human body, that I bonded and shackled with old rum barrel hoops. Timalle is also the filmed process of a white man transforming Timal – which means small male, in creole – into Timalle – which means suitcase. It is a re-enactment, through sculpture and performance, of the enslavement process. It connects the past and the present with the traumatic history of the Caribbean. With our traumatic history.

2. What inspired you to make this sculpture?

My artistic practice was born in Guadeloupe in an old sugar factory. The complexity of racial issues, of slavery, colonial and post-colonial heritage is my daily life. Timalle is the culmination of several years of creation on the themes of the Other, the Skin, the Identity, the historical stigmatas, the Rooting, the Encounter, the Reparation. All my art is engaged in a process of: Repairing our world. Tinkering with the incurable.

3. What is unique about it?

The iron rods I used to relive the slavery process are historical materials. But the slavery trade reparation form I used to mould Timalle is something I designed. This is the first time Timalle has been displayed in Europe. There are not a lot of art works performed by a white man, raised in France, living in the Caribbean, using such materials to build bridges between antagonistic points of view. Although having an unusual personal course is a constant in Caribbean art.

4. What do you think it tells us about abolition? What does it tell us about the world today?

Where I live, in a complex post-trade society, abolition doesn’t mean the “end of slavery”. It can be seen as a disguised domination, self-merciful softening of guilt, free debt refund and a moral duty diverted by greedy lobbies. Slavery did build our societies and we still live with this heritage. This can be obvious to some people, and fanciful for others. I live in such a multipolar society, and Timalle is an answer to that deaf dialogue problem, which prevents any Reparations process.

5. It’s very difficult to watch the tightening process. Did you want people to feel uncomfortable looking at this? How do you want other people to respond to Timalle?

I couldn’t honestly avoid that. The process helped me to understand this history physically. You share sweat, blood, and intimacy with the one you put the irons on and enslave. I think art is not only a matter of concepts. An art piece has to work. To rely on emotions, strength, poetry, humour, danger, etc, to create a move, to make the public step aside. To reveal or change something.

See more details on our Ink and Blood exhibition, or find out more about Francois Piquet.

Extract from “Timalle”. A Film by Francois Piquet, 2017


  1. Stan Musquer says:

    Great Artist !

  2. Murielle says:

    Brilliant! I admire the fact that you have the courage to make your own people feel uncomfortable about the way they treated my people and that you encourage both to think about reparation for the harm caused, and all that through a very original piece of art.

  3. Rafath W says:

    Great piece of art…brillianti. He squeezed all his emotions in thw most unique way one can imagine.
    My daughter who is an artist created a beautiful art taken from a slave story. The story of a slave woman who was briught to the shores of America in a four feet by four feet box with holes. to breathes. My artist my artist. daughter name it “HOPE”. She narrated beautifully.

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