Rivercommissions: Hull Time Based Arts:

Title: TRUELOVE 2002

There is a Leviathanic Museum, they tell me in Hull, England, one of the whaling ports of the country, were they have some fine specimens of fin-backs and other whales.
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, 1851.

The work I am proposing will be positioned on a section of fendering located on the River Hull, just south of the Myton Bridge and close to where the river joins the River Humber.   The work will be installed on two sections of steel pillars that form part of the fendering.     

The siting of the work, close to the mouth of the Humber, marks the area where the ‘old harbour’ was located, it is a place that would have witnessed the arrival and departure of Hull’s many whaling ships from the 16C through to the mid 19C and forms the starting point for this work.

The works title ‘Truelove’ is taken from one of Hull’s most famous whaling ships.   She has a strong presence throughout the history of whaling in Hull, and was active on and off from 1784 till 1868.  The ship was one of the last two whalers to operate from Hull.

Truelove was built in 1764 in Philadelphia, U.S.A. but ended up in British hands after it was captured during the American War of Independence.   She was bought in 1780 by a wine merchant operating from Hull, but in 1784 she made her first whaling trip to Greenland.  

My interest in Truelove for the project stems from an episode taken from the ships rich history and involved two Eskimos (Inuit) being brought back to Hull from Greenland in 1847.

The two Inuit’s, Memiadluk (17 years) and Uckaluk (15) were brought back by the ships Captain, John Parker.  Following their arrival the couple, who had been married by Captain Parker before their voyage to Hull, undertook a journey across the North of England and were exhibited at Hull Manchester and York, they appeared in their native costumes along with artifacts from Greenland including a canoe, hut, bows and arrows.   

Captain Parker’s reason bringing the aboriginal couple over to Hull was to communicate the Inuit’s plight who had no protection from the whalers who visited their land and as a result suffered from the often bruta contact with the Europeans.      

The admission charged at these exhibitions was utilised to buy  useful supplies for their return to Greenland.  In the Spring of 1849 Memiadluk and Uckaluk began their return journey home, but before this plaster casts of their heads were made, a cast of Captain Parker’s head was also taken.  On their journey home the ship stopped in Orkney, where Uckaluk contracted Measles and died shortly afterwards. 

The work I am proposing will utilise the plaster casts of Memiadluk and Uckaluk in Hull’s Maritime Museum collection.   Copies of these heads will be made, either by taking a direct cast from the heads in the museum or having exact copies made by a sculptor.   The former technique being my preferred option.   The two heads will located on top of one of the steel pillars of the fendering.  
A cast iron collar will also be cast to fit over the steel pillar, this will be inscribed with the names of whaling grounds fished by the Hul ships off Greenland and the Davis Straits.  This list will also include the settlement that Memiadluk and Uckaluk came from.

The Inuit couples direct and poignant legacy, via their story and plaster images they left behind, illustrates very simply Hull’s prolonged contact with people from other lands and the positive and wider implications that has had for the city and its population.  

The casts of Memiadluk and Uckaluk, now over 150 years old allow us to look directly into their foreign faces and glimpse a view of Hull and the people who once lived and worked in the ‘old harbour’ and the
distant places once connected to it.

Stefan Gec.  2/2002