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In December 1911, three men set foot on Malaga Island, a tiny island off the coast of the American state of Maine. The doctor, the sheriff and the judge had been sent to the island by the Governor of Maine to banish the local population. There were plans to build a holiday resort on Malaga Island, and the 45 islanders were in the way. The few poor fisherman families that lived together harmoniously for generations were partly of mixed blood. Since their arrival in the mid-nineteenth century, black and white islanders had fallen in love and married. And there the future hotel guests might take offense.

So, for example, the Marks family, a black family with five children, was driven out of their house and transported to the mainland. The men were separated from the women, after which they were housed in institutions. Father Jacob Marks died two weeks after he arrived at the Maine School for the Feeble Minded in New Gloucester, about 50 kilometers away. Four other family members died in the years that followed.

The American artist Theaster Gates (1973) encountered this painful history in 2017 when he did research at Colby College in Maine. Now Malaga Island is the inspiration for his new exhibition Amalgam in the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. "It is an incredibly harrowing story that almost no one knows," says Gates, as he guides a group of journalists around the exhibition. "In July 1912 all inhabitants of the island were removed. Their houses were burnt down. Even the graves were cleared. Seventeen bodies were reburied in a mass grave on the grounds of the Maine School for the Feeble Minded. "