“Opium Clippers is a book about a suppressed episode in world history: the tea and opium trade, from the colonial era to the present.”
The artist book Opium Clippers is based on the series of homonymous tea ceremonies in which artist Neja Tomšič tells (true) stories about forgotten episodes in world history to a chosen audience while making and drinking tea. In the second half of the 19th and beginning of 20th centuries the tea and opium trade was one of the most lucrative businesses in the world and was, at the time, completely controlled by the great European colonial powers and private corporations enjoying state protection.
The book Opium Clippers is a combination of images and texts through which the artist narrates stories based on documents while, at the same time, consciously transitioning from the factual to the symbolic level of this issue. The tea and opium trade refers to a time, in the past, when notions on politics, class, gender, religion and culture as we know them now were being (trans)formed. It also refers to the present time, however, as this enormous industry is still at the heart of many economic and military superpowers, whose roots can be traced to tea and opium trade. Numerous successful financial, trade or transport companies still active today were established in the period of the tea and opium trade, often as a result of it. Based on short-term planning and quick profits, the tea and opium trade had profound consequences on many societies around the globe.
Neja Tomšič (1982) is a visual artist, poet and writer whose interdisciplinary practice merges different disciplines and media such as drawing, photography, poetry, performance and music. She also works as a curator and producer and is a co-founder of MoTA (Museum of Transitory Art), a Ljubljana-based research and production platform devoted to transitory art. She lives and works in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Filmed and Edited by Tomaž Šantl