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PRRLL DVRRS: A Performance by Dark Adaptive

PRRLL DVRRS is a movement performance inspired by the labor histories and experiences of enslaved and free men of African-descent in the Gulf Region from the late-nineteenth century until well into the twentieth century. With the expansion of the Gulf pearling industry due to increased European demand for pearls, the need for pearl divers rose significantly during this period. To meet this need, men from East African countries were purchased (and at times, captured through deception), brought to the Gulf Region by boat, and enslaved as pearl divers and fishermen. It is estimated that at the height of the pearling industry, enslaved African men accounted for almost half the population of Gulf divers.

PRRLL DVRRS envisions Torkwase Dyson's six freestanding sculptures on the waterfront near the vacant Kalba Ice Factory as physical manifestations of the dhow ships that carried crews of divers out to sea during the five-month long pearling season. Working from sunrise to sunset, with little more than an hour break in the afternoon, these men were subjected to grueling and dangerous underwater labor. Additionally, in accordance with Dyson’s conceptual premise, PRRLL DVRRS considers these six sculptures as maritime optical viewing devices, directing sunlight and the viewing gaze both horizontally (from shore to sea, ship to sea, and ship to shore), and vertically (from shore to sky, ship to sky, and ship to sea). In this regard, PRRLL DVRRS attempts to explore notions of axes, distance, and sight from the perspective of the pearl divers themselves.

PRRLL DVRRS also considers the body in relationship to four sites: the sky, shore, sea, and ship. The performance reimagines the primarily vertical experience of pearl diving, and repositions this along the horizontal plane. Depth above and below the water surface is thus transformed as distance across the hardscape and shoreline surrounding the Kalba Ice Factory. Inspired by the three traditional diving seasons, Ghaūs al-Kabīr (the Great Dive), Radda (Return), and Mujannah, as well as the three positions of the sun (sunrise, midday, sunset) which governed divers’ work days, the performance is partially choreographed as a triadic cycle of permutations of movement. Weaving the performer across Dyson’s sculptural installation and its waterfront site through sequenced and improvisational movement, the work offers a creative and solemn reflection on the lives and underwater labor experience of the enslaved pearl divers.

Sites Sky Shore

Sea Ship

Ship Onboard Ship Overboard Shore On
Shore Off Surface Above Surface On Surface Below

Ascent Descent Steady Observe X X X Balance X X X



Ready X X

Climb X X Inhale X Exhale X
Plunge X Break X X Splash X X Emerge X
Submerge X Dive X


Paddle X Anchor
Rotate X Float
Grasp X Tug X






PRRLL DVRRS: A Performance by Dark Adaptive
Sharjah Biennial 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber
Look for Me All Around You – Curated by Claire Tancons

PRRLL DVRRS: Order of Ceremonies (see movement score for further details)

*Transition 1: Preparation (Fade-In) *Journey Sequence 1: Shore to Ship *Journey Sequence 2: Ship to Sea *Transition 2: Divers Submerge *Divers Sequence 1: Rise (Front)

Movement Sound Time
X (+/-1 minute)

X (+/-2 minutes) X (+/-2 minutes)

-Sculpture 1 to Sculpture 4 -Sculpture 4 to Sculpture 2 -Sculpture 2 to Sculpture 5 -Sculpture 5 to Sculpture 3 -Sculpture 3 to Sculpture 6

*Divers Sequence 2: Height (Front -Sculpture 1 to Sculpture 4 -Sculpture 4 to Sculpture 2 -Sculpture 2 to Sculpture 5 -Sculpture 5 to Sculpture 3 -Sculpture 3 to Sculpture 6

*Divers Sequence 3: Set (Front) -Sculpture 1 to Sculpture 4 -Sculpture 4 to Sculpture 2 -Sculpture 2 to Sculpture 5 -Sculpture 5 to Sculpture 3 -Sculpture 3 to Sculpture 6

+ Back)




(+/-2 minutes) (+/-6 minutes)

(+/-6 minutes)

(+/-6 minutes)

*Transition 3: Divers Emerge *Journey Sequence 3: Sea to Ship *Journey Sequence 4: Ship to Shore *Transition 4: Preparation (Fade-Out)

(+/-2 minutes) minutes)

X (+/-2

X (+/-2 X (+/-1

minutes) minute)

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