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'Supplant (Date palms on Leadenhall Street)'



Colonial map, coloured pencil drawing


A colonial era folding fabric panel map of the British Indian Empire, spliced with a pencil drawing of an Indian date palm found growing on the site of East India House, headquarters of the East India Company.


This site is now the Lloyd’s Building, home to Lloyd’s of London, a company founded on insuring ships transporting enslaved people during the transatlantic slave trade.  

Installation, dimensions variable.






Part of a body of work created through a funded project with Artcore, UK at 1Shanti Road, Bangalore, India.

A response to Lalbagh Botanic Garden, Derby Arboretum and the ancient Nallur Tamarind Grove (the first protected site of biodiversity in India) with an exploration of post-colonialism, ecology and place.

supplant detail.jpg

History is like a garden. And as with any garden that you may spend time in, however long you walk its paths and explore its furrows, you will never know it in its completeness. Its spaces, its edges; both contain mysteries, hidden undergrowths and tangled blurs. The past too is a realm where land seems to meet sky in an unsettled shift of growth and decay, retreat, and unfurling. 

Depending on who you are, or where you stand. There will always be stories, experiences and inheritances that are lost to you. We may walk the garden together, but our view will be separate, light will shine on different vistas, and I will see shadow from a different angle to you.  

But in order to imagine and nurture our future, it is necessary to try and collectively occupy this garden of our past, to share and interrogate what we find.


I live a few miles from the original site of the East India company in London. Interested in this small plot of earth, that for centuries controlled the prospects of thousands of miles of the British subcontinent, I walked to visit it on a quiet weekend morning. Approaching the site I was greeted by a plant, an Indian date palm, its feathery mass a celebratory green against the barren starkness of British winter. How significant, that years after the end of this brutal, subjugating and exploitative power, it is an Indian plant that now sits on the threshold of this land, a doorkeeper, a postscript of resilience. 

But we must be careful what we plant in our garden, for there is another, more insidious material progeny to this place. When the East India Company was dissolved, East India House was sold to Lloyd’s of London, a business established to profit from the lucrative dealing of insuring slaves as shipping cargo. Is this the descendancy of a violent seed? If so, it was first planted centuries ago in the nucleus of England’s financial centre. Lloyds still exists today, the Empire is over, the slave trade abolished, but there are quieter lineages that continue, inheritances we could choose to dig up.  


Freya Gabie


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