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Jamilah Sabur, Un chemin escarpé / A steep path, 2019. Video still. Courtesy of the artist

The Memory of Water: The Visual Poetry of A Steep Path

  • Article
  • PHI Foundation
By  Marie-Hélène Lemaire  &  Méshama Rose Eyob-Austin

This poetic essay is the result of a co-creation project between Méshama Rose Eyob-Austin and Marie-Hélène Lemaire inspired by Jamilah Sabur’s work A steep path. It takes the form of an introduction followed by a water poem in two voices that explores the theme of interconnection.

Theme: Interconnection

The title of the Jamilah Sabur exhibition is The Mountain Sings Underwater, and the video installation presented at PHI Foundation is titled A steep path. Interconnection is a recurring theme in Sabur’s work. First there is connection with the artist’s ancestors and Jamaican cultural heritage. Then there is connection with the natural landscape in Jamaica where she was born: Blue Mountains, ocean and sea, beaches, and steep hills.

Jamilah Sabur left Jamaica as a young child and immigrated to Miami. The Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean fill the space that separates her from her homeland. References to water throughout her work are her way of reconnecting with the Caribbean. As expressed by Sabur, water remembers, preserves and carries memories. It can also draw connections between places and things.

Water Poem
By Méshama Rose Eyob-Austin and Marie-Hélène Lemaire

Because water is so important in Sabur’s work, we were inspired to respond poetically to the power and influence of water. We wrote the poem in the form of waves and the swirl of streams, rivers, and oceans. It follows a pattern of sounds and vibrations between our words. It dives deep and comes back up for air. It moves with the ebb and flow of the tide.

Activity Kit

For further consideration about water poems > Activity Kit
Activity #3: Create a poem inspired by water


Movements: Larry Achiampong + Jamilah Sabur is a tool designed by the PHI Foundation’s Department of Education to encourage visitors to develop and elaborate on some key concepts of the exhibitions Larry Achiampong: Relic Traveller and Jamilah Sabur: The Mountain Sings Underwater.


Marie-Hélène Lemaire
Marie-Hélène Lemaire is Head of Education at PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art. She completed a Ph.D. in Communications Studies at Concordia University in 2015 that focused on developing a movement-based pedagogy for the guided group visit in contemporary art exhibitions. Using a feminist pedagogy of embodiment, new materialist and poetic inquiry approaches, she aims to privilege and validate somatic and affective engagements with contemporary art. She nurtures a poetic writing practice for developing, facilitating and interpreting curricula for guided visits. She is committed to epistemic justice in the arts.

Méshama Rose Eyob-Austin
Méshama Rose Eyob-Austin is currently in her first semester of a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at McGill University. She was awarded the Victor Phillips Award by The Black Theatre Workshop in 2019 for her essay in Black Writers Matter, a collection of work including other emerging Black writers. As an emerging singer, she has performed at events across the community, including at the St. Raymond’s Block Party. She speaks English, French, Spanish and Amharic and is the recipient of multiple academic awards and bursaries, including the City of Lachine Bursary and The Perseverance Bursary.


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