GORHAM –A century ago, Maine forced a group of mixed-race fishermen and families living on a small island just off Phippsburg from their homes.

Photo of Malaga Island residents. Courtesy of University of Southern Maine/Daniel Minter

A fifth of the residents were incarcerated — on questionable grounds — at the Maine School for the Feebleminded in New Gloucester. Most would live out the majority of the rest of their lives there. Other displaced islanders drifted about, struggling to find another home that would accept them.

Artist Daniel Minter wants to tell their stories. He’s debuting his latest exhibition, “Othered: Displaced from Malaga” with a 6 p.m. presentation on Thursday, Oct. 4, at The University of Southern Maine Art Gallery, 5 University Way, on the Gorham campus.

 

In 1912, Malaga, a 42-acre island squeezed between Phippsburg and Bear Island, was home to about 40 people — white, black and mixed-race subsistence farmers and fishermen and their families. That year, the state bought the island and, under orders from the governor, forcibly evicted everyone that lived there. The state destroyed the buildings, except for the schoolhouse, which the

Artwork courtesy of University of Southern Maine/Daniel Minter

y moved to Louds Island in Muscongus Bay.

Workers exhumed 17 bodies buried on the island, and moved them to the School for the Feebleminded, which is today home to Pineland Farms. Officials tried to scrub all evidence of their existence from the island.

No one has lived on the island since. A memorial to Malaga residents was installed at Pineland Farms in 2017.

“I imagine that the people of Malaga Island were able to maintain the sense of an inner home even at a time when every outward representation of home was being taken away,” Minter said. “The image of the person standing in the water; the turbulent calm of the body and vi

sage are reminders that in the face of eradication we may disappear but our spirits are not diminished. Our physical home is shallow whereas the depth of our inner home cannot be measured.”

Minter’s exhibit will be on display through December 9.

The university will host a Malaga Island Panel Discussion from 4:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at 10 Bailey Hall on the Gorham Campus. A reception will follow at 7 p.m. at the Art Gallery.  Minter, the university’s artist-in-residence, will moderate the panel session.

Artwork courtesy of University of Southern Maine/Daniel Minter

Minter, known for his visual storytelling, recalls the Malaga story with paintings, assemblage, and a small house in the gallery filled with historical photographs and archeological artifacts relaying a sense of place, loss, emptiness and wholeness. Minter’s artwork reflects abiding themes of displacement and diaspora, spirituality in the Afro-Atlantic world, and the (re)creation of meanings of home.

Minter lived in Chicago and New York before moving to Portland. From his base in Maine. He is the co-founder and creative visionary of the Portland Freedom Trail, a system of granite and bronze markers that constitutes a permanent walking trail highlighting the people, places and events associated with the anti-slavery movement in Portland.

Minter was selected by The Partners of the Americas, having been chosen for their artist exchange program with Natal, Brazil in 2012. Minter’s additional recognitions include the James Washington Jr. sculptor-in-residence in Seattle and the Sapelo Island (Georgia) artist-in-residence.

Minter’s paintings, carvings, block prints and sculptures have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at galleries and museums including the Portland Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, Hammonds House Museum, Northwest African American Art Museum, Museum Jorge Amado and the Meridian International Center.

 

 

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