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Salt review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘moving, personal journey’

Selina Thompson in Salt. Photo: Richard Davenport Selina Thompson in Salt. Photo: Richard Davenport

Some shows feel as if they need to be made: that they serve a deeper purpose for the maker. Selina Thompson’s Salt is one such show,

To try to understand her place within the diaspora, Thompson booked herself and a film-maker friend on a cargo ship from Belgium to Ghana as part of a larger journey retracing the transatlantic slave triangle.

Thompson describes the physical and emotional discomfort of this journey, the toll it takes on her, as well as her visceral response to visiting Elmina Castle in Ghana and imagining the immense suffering that took place there.

Occasionally she breaks off from telling this story to don safety goggles, take up a sledgehammer and smash a large pink salt crystal into shards. She hits it until her breath quickens and her skin shines.

It’s a moment of catharsis, and while the symbolism of the salt – the stuff of tears and of the ocean but also a commodity – is not lost there’s a poetry and delicacy to the act of destruction. It also informs her exploration of what it is to exist in a black body with Europe, its history and the things it was built on forever pushing against her – to exist in a black, female body at airports and in taxicabs and at arts festivals performing to predominantly white audiences.

Thompson does all this with grace and generosity making for an embracive show that’s also eloquent about the elusiveness of home when you’re a descendent of immigrants.

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Moving, personal journey about the painful legacy of the slave trade