An 18th Century lament thought to have been penned by Robert Burns will be one of the Scottish centrepieces at the world’s biggest visual arts festival this year.
Arbroath-based Hospitalfield Arts has been given the honour of curating the Scotland + Venice exhibition at the 16th Century Palazzo Fontana in Venice, which opens in May.
Glasgow-based artist Graham Fagen, with Scottish composer Sally Beamish and reggae musician Ghetto Priest have worked on a new version of a poem and song from 1792 to create the aural highlight of the Scotland + Venice 2015 contribution.
The poem and song are not certain to have been written by Burns but they are often attributed to the national bard, with lines sung from the point of view of a slave.
They include: “It was in sweet Senegal that my foes did me enthral/For the lands of Virginia,-ginia, O/Torn from that lovely shore, and must never see it more/And alas! I am weary, weary O.”
Members of the Scottish Ensemble, led by violinist Jonathan Morton, will play the song and the performance is to be broadcast on screens overlooking the Grand Canal.
Fagen said he was inspired to centre the show on the song as he was intrigued not only by reggae but by Burns nearly moving to work in Jamaica in 1786.
The Hospitalfield curated element will also feature sculpture, drawings and prints.
Fagen said: “I went to school in Irvine and each January we recited off by heart a Burns poem or song and as I grew up, I developed a curiosity about punk and reggae music.
“I grew up with this curiosity why my cultural heritage felt slightly alien and distant but the cultural opposite, Jamaican reggae, meant much more to me and my peer group on a council housing scheme in Irvine.”
Hospitalfield director Lucy Byatt said: “I first began working with Graham on the long- running Royston Road project in Glasgow, for which he made a series of important works.
“Working together again is extremely rewarding.”