Artist Faisal Abdu’Allah talks to us about The Duppy Conqueror, 1970s race tensions and his jacquard tapestries of the Last Supper. His latest exhibition, The Duppy Conqueror & Other Works, is on at Autograph ABP until 14 April 2018.
What can you tell us about your latest exhibition, The Duppy Conqueror?
The show has been three years in the making and incorporates prints, sculpture, tapestries, lens-based media and drawing. It explores my masked alter-ego – the ‘Duppy Conqueror’ – a spirit that is a shapeshifter who highlights societal inequities. In the current climate, where truth and fiction converge, the alter-ego emerges as a political gadfly: an outsider leading the insurrection of the everyday people against the established authority.
As a boy growing up in London, my parents would talk about spirits and refer to them as Duppys. In Jamaican tradition, a “Duppy” is an evil ghost or malevolent spirit who appears in dreams, sometimes to give cautionary advice. Years later, my generation would give rise to another definition, to be “Duppied” – to be duped or hoodwinked. My alter-ego’s name, the Duppy Conqueror, is derived from the song by Robert Nesta Marley (with the same title), in which Marley describes dissent as the only way to reach a higher state of consciousness.
The title of your exhibition relates to a triptych of your masked alter-ego. Can you tell us why you chose this work as the title piece?
The power of three is universal in this work and represents birth, life, and death. Our odyssey of life is sculpted by a plethora of hands with honorable or nefarious intentions. The institutions of learning acquiesce to those whom are pioneers of spirituality, literature, science and the arts. However, the Duppy Conqueror views these establishments as specters and purveyors of a subterfuge.