The Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery was host to a biographical exhibition of the life and adventures of Olaudah Equiano, a leading African figure in the British abolition movement in the 18th century. The project was led by Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Equiano Society. The national exhibition was inspired by Equiano's autobiography 'The Interesting Narrative' (1789), by international and national artworks, and objects from Birmingham museums’ collections. It provided a narrative of Equiano’s life, and also explored wider local links between the West Midlands and the transatlantic slave trade. The Equiano Project also created a website, educational packages (available to buy via the project website), and a series of events and outreach activities. The exhibition publication 'Equiano - Enslavement, Resistance and Abolition' was edited by Arthur Torrington, Rita McLean, Victoria Osborne and Ian Grosvenor, and provided new insights into enslavement, resistance, abolition, and the African presence in Britain in the 18th century. Two touring exhibitions were loaned to community centres, libraries and other venues, including Walsall Museum, Sheffield and District African Caribbean Community Association and the Hudawi Cultural Centre in Huddersfield.
An exhibition at Walsall Museum looked at Walsall's links with the slave trade, the background to the Abolition Act of 1807, and the legacies of slavery. Walsall's metal industry included chain making by local women of Cradley Heath, and the manufacture of guns used to trade for captive Africans. The exhibition was accompanied by a programme of presentations, lectures and workshops, including art sessions with local residents and the artist Pauline Bailey. Part of the wider project featured an online resource 'Abolition WYA' by Walsall Youth Arts, which encouraged young people to explore the topic of slavery and contribute poems, visual arts and music to express their views. Some of the images featured on the site are pictured here.
Commissioned by The New Art Gallery Walsall, Unquenchable Spirit was an installation piece, informed by community engagement activities with local people, which included a month long artist residency by the artist Pauline Bailey. The community collaboration project included the local support group ACSERG (African Caribbean Social and Economic Regeneration Group). The piece consists of a circle of whipping posts with neck chains and the names of African tribes on piles of cotton sacks in the centre.