Saltworks documents the processes of making salt today in salinas in Portugal, which have seen a huge decline in the last century due to new methods of preservation and industrial production. The film also considers the poetic qualities of salt production, the slowness, the technologies that have not changed, the ecosystems that are supported, and the links to culture and migration. The film was made during field research in Portugal and a studio residency at Fabrica Braco de Prata, Lisbon in September 2013, and first shown at an exhibition at Plataforma Revolver, Lisbon, in September-October 2013.
The project Saltworks links migration, regeneration, and memory through the material and metaphorical qualities of salt. Salt is an everyday substance which contains multiple histories, journeys and narratives. Salt links a market in Brixton, London with sites in Portugal including Aveiro, Figueira da Foz and Rio Maior, connecting cultures, and representing the movement of past and present diasporas which formed through trade and migration, and still shape our cities. My fascination with salt began when I discovered that my great-grandfather Woolf Beinart had, upon migrating from Lithuania to South Africa in 1903, set up a company called the Darling Salt Pans and Produce Co., collecting and trading salt from natural salt pans. I began to notice references to salt in ritual, memory and preservation in different cultures. This developed into a long term project, 'Salted Earth', which looks at salt as a poetics of migration and place-making, and connects this to the representation of diverse voices in urban regeneration processes.
Moving to London, and exploring Brixton Market, an area which has been a magnet and an anchor for those of a migrant background, I interviewed market traders who told stories of migration, hardship, and loss, but of finding a new home in London. Using salt as indexical to the trade and migration links of the market, I documented products and recorded narratives. One trader, Jose, whose father had come from Portugal in the 1960s, ran the family deli, and told the story of the salt cod they sold to Portuguese, Italian, Greeks, Jamaicans, and many others. Unravelling the history of salt cod and salt production took me to Portugal, and the ancient sites of salt production, fish markets and trading ports.