As descendants of enslaved Africans, Jacqueline and Sonia Brooks expressed their own independent responses to the bicentenary. Jacqueline designed a limited edition postcard to display the horrors of a slave ship. Sonia wrote the poem Amazing Trade, which was performed during the National Maritime Museum's programme for Slavery Remembrance Day.
Commissioned by 2007's City of London Festival, artist Satch Hoyt created several sculptures made only of sugar. In St Paul's Cathedral, life-sized portraits of influential black figures - including Olaudah Equiano, Ignatius Sancho and Mary Seacole - were made of painted sugar cubes. Hoyt also created two slave ships from sugar, displayed at Museum of London Docklands.
In 2007 the artist Faisal Abdu'Allah was commissioned by Tate Britain to work collaboratively with a group of young people from Park High School in Harrow and St George's Roman Catholic School in Westminster to explore ideas related to the commemoration of the 1807 Abolition Act. The group engaged with creative research and artistic processes to produce narratives capturing their personal viewpoints on the themes of freedom of expression, liberty, revolution and slavery. The project Stolen Sanity resulted in a series of large scale photographic portraits that were displayed in the main galleries of Tate Britain. The project integrated the factual historic time line of Tate Britain's display, 1807: Blake, Slavery and the Radical Mind, with fictional personal reflections through audio and visual art.
2007 saw a number of different projects taking place at Harewood House in West Yorkshire, home of the Lascelles family. The bicentenary was used as an opportunity to explore the family connections with the transatlantic slave trade and the sugar plantations of the West Indies.
The art installation Crop Over by British Afro-Caribbean artist Sonia Boyce was shown in the public galleries at Harewood House throughout 2007. Crop Over is a Barbadian festival which has evolved from a celebration by plantation slaves of the end of the sugar crop. Sonia Boyce's two-screen film visually depicts the traditions, histories and cultural practices of this festival, which culminates with a carnivalesque parade known as Kadooment. It also responds to the history of Harewood House. The Lascelles family association with Barbados began in the 17th century when Edward Lascelles and his son Daniel were based in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Freedom Sculpture was conceived by Mary Thompson, a teacher at Dog Kennel Hill Primary School in East Dulwich, as a way for the school to mark the bicentenary. Year 6 pupils worked with Kevin Boys, a blacksmith from Surrey Docks City Farm, to translate their ideas of freedom into a visual image. A butterfly was chosen to represent the concept of freedom. Kevin Boys made the butterfly's wings on a mobile forge in the school playground, and Year 5 children designed patterns to place inside. The Freedom Sculpture was opened in the school grounds in November 2008 by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, the civil liberties advocacy group.
The sculpture Blue Earth 1807-2007 by African artist Taslim Martin was permanently installed in the newly updated African Worlds Gallery at the Horniman Museum in 2007, to mark the bicentenary. The large iron globe, inscribed with the 18th century image of the slave ship Brookes, traces the routes along which enslaved Africans were transported to the New World, alongside the movement of the products of enslaved labour. The major British ports of Liverpool, London and Bristol are depicted, as well as ports in West Africa and some of the destination ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Visitors are encouraged to spin the globe to view slave routes across the world. In 2007-2008, the Horniman Museum also hosted 'La Bouche du Roi' by Romuald Hazoumé.
Abolition was an art project devised and led by artist Jack Brown, in collaboration with Tidemill Primary School in Deptford. It took place during Black History Month 2007, and aimed to commemorate the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade while recognising the existence of modern day slavery. Every child in the school made a 'step', an artwork representing their perspective on the writing, discussion and petitioning that drove abolition. The children visited the Laban Building at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and laid their step on the studio theatre floor. Taken together, the steps were conceived as a 'stairway to change'.
Curated by Predrag Pajdic, BOUND was an exhibition of works by international contemporary artists representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity, in historical and modern contexts. BOUND incorporated archival material, conceptual work, photography, video, live art performance, interventions and installations. It was a partnership project between the Open Eye Gallery, FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) and Tate Liverpool. The exhibition opened at Open Eye Gallery and then ran at various venues across Liverpool. Associated events included open table discussions, talks and film screenings.
La Bouche du Roi was created by artist Romauld Hazoumé, who lives and work in the Republic of Benin, West Africa. The multi-media artwork is named after a place on the coast of Benin from where enslaved Africans were transported. It comprised 304 plastic petrol can 'masks', each representing a person, arranged in the shape of the woodcut of the Liverpool slave ship Brookes. The aroma of tobacco and spices are represented alongside the terrible smells of a slave ship. The artwork was accompanied by a film showing the motorcyclists who transport petrol illegally between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin. The cans and motorcyclists are metaphors for modern forms of enslavement and resistance. First exhibited at the British Museum in London, La Bouche du Roi toured to the following venues during 2007-9: Ferens Art Gallery in Hull, International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery, Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, and the Horniman Museum in London.
Uncomfortable Truths at the Victoria and Albert Museum sought to expose how embedded the transatlantic slave trade was within British culture during the 18th and 19th centuries through art and design. A series of five trails - 'Traces of the Trade' - explored the permanent collections on display through the following themes: Consuming the Black Atlantic, Black Servants in British Homes, Britain and the West Indies, Representing Slavery and Abolitionism, Gold and Slaves Transnational Trade Links. An exhibition of contemporary art examined the impact of the legacies of slavery on modern art and design. The Victoria and Albert Museum commissioned new works by Yinka Shonibare, Romauld Hazoume, Julien Sinzogan and Keith Piper. These and other contemporary interventions by a total of 11 artists were displayed throughout the museum. This exhibition later toured to Ferens Art Gallery in Hull.
The 'Truth and Rights' season of events highlighted often untold stories of Black British heroes, including focus on the actor Ira Aldridge. Visitors were also offered discussions, debates, displays and an eight week free art course. A two-day conference, 'From Cane Field to Tea Cup: The Impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on Art and Design' focused on V&A collections took place in February 2007.
Hawkins & Co brought together over 70 works by fifteen contemporary artists. The title referred to Elizabethan naval commander Sir John Hawkins, whose 16th century voyages to Africa and the Caribbean pioneered the British slave trade. The show was curated by artist Kimathi Donkor, and first exhibited at London’s Elspeth Kyle Gallery. In 2008, an expanded version of the project was exhibited at Liverpool’s Contemporary Urban Centre. The display included artworks by Keith Piper, Barbara Walker and Raimi Gbadamosi, and a new commission from Jean-François Boclé. Each piece on show explored a different aspect of the culture and history of the transatlantic African-Caribbean diaspora affected by Hawkins’ legacy.
Scratch the Surface at the National Gallery brought together two portraits, Johann Zoffany's 'Mrs Oswald' (1763-4) and Sir Joshua Reynolds's 'Colonel Tarleton' (1782), to explore the complex relationship between these sitters and slavery. Colonel Tarleton, as MP for Liverpool in the 1790s, argued in Parliament against the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. Mrs Oswald, along with her husband Richard Oswald, owed part of their wealth to a number of plantations in the Americas. The artist Yinka Shonibare was invited to create a new installation in response to these two portraits, which was also on display. A varied programme of events and activities accompanied the exhibition, including tours, talks, workshops and films.
Story Interrupted was an exhibition of jewellery and ceramics by visual orator Akosua Bambara at Bruce Castle Museum. Each piece was created in memory of African people who suffered and died in enslavement.
Dark Heritage from Bee Arts Community Interest Company comprised The DARK, a sonic art installation, and accompanying participatory educational activities. The DARK touring installation is a pitch black space designed to bring home the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. The three dimensional soundscape uses ghosts as metaphors for the hidden aspects of the past, based on the Liverpudlian slave-ship worker Edward Rushton, slave ship Captain John Newton, and Kunie, an African man who met Rushton aboard an American ship. A programme of public sessions and creative educational workshops aimed at schools, colleges, youth and community groups were produced in collaboration with Kingswood Primary School in Lambeth. Dark Heritage travelled to six locations in the UK in 2007-08 starting in Greenwich, travelling to Ipswich, Gloucester, University of Hertfordshire, Norwich and finishing in Manchester.
The Parallel Views exhibition and its associated community engagement programme explored the relevance of the bicentenary for communities in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, uncovering local associations with slavery and its abolition. It also told the parallel story of twin town Richmond, Virginia, USA, to broaden understanding of the transatlantic slave trade and the impact of its demise. The exhibition examined evidence of individuals of African origin who had come to Richmond, and residents with financial links to slavery and the slave trade, and to abolitionism. A film piece by choreographer and dance historian Dr Rodreguez King-Dorset explored the use of dance within the free Black community in London during the era of abolition. A display of contemporary artwork responded to the ideas of the exhibition. A sculpture by carnival artist Carl Gabriel linked consumers in Richmond and the conditions of production of slave-grown crops. The design was inspired by a series of workshops with local families. Artist-led workshops for children and young people led to the creation of a carnival costume piece which was included in the exhibition.
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.
Well Dressing is an ancient custom unique to Derbyshire. Each year, between May and September, hundreds of well dressings are created by volunteers in Derbyshire villages. According to many sources, it developed from a pagan tradition of making sacrifice to the Gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. In the Derbyshire tradition, pictures are made for the most part of individual flower petals pressed onto clay covered boards. In 2007, many wells were dressed to mark the bicentenary. Pictured are wells in Ashford-in-the-Water, Belper, Tissington and Wirksworth, photographed by Glyn Williams.
This exhibition explored the links between industry in the West Midlands and the commercial gains of slavery. Wolverhampton's role as a manufacturer of iron was crucial to the economy of slavery, as implements of restraint and punishment were needed to repress those who fought their enslavement. The exhibition emerged from a collaboration between photographer Vanley Burke and blacksmith Lofty Wright. They re-created 40 cast iron instruments used in the slave trade: forked wooden yokes that controlled captives; irons, muzzles and braces that were used to constrain and as punishment. Each of the metal items was symbolically coated in sugar.
Threads of Strength and Fortitude was an exhibition of a series of textiles by artist Penny Sisto, created as a personal response to the bicentenary. The quilts were shipped over from New Albany, Indiana, and exhibited at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. Eight quilts explored the theme of slavery through depictions of servitude, emancipation and the flight to freedom. Pieces on show include 'Slave Ship 1,' which depicts eight enslaved Africans chained by their necks on a slave ship. Another quilt, 'Ran Away', showed a farmer leading Underground Railroad travellers by lantern light. The exhibition was accompanied by an interactive DVD, 'Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage: Men and Women of the Underground Railroad in the Indiana and Kentucky Borderland'. There was also a series of events, including guest lectures and workshops on the subject of the abolition of slavery aimed at school and community groups. Art-based workshops explored the themes of peaceful resistance.
The Quaker Quilters of Norwich Quaker Meeting held the Slave Quilts Exhibition at the Friends Meeting House in Norwich in May 2007. By the 1860s in the United States there were organised flights to freedom for enslaved people from the southern plantations via the Underground Railroad – a network of paths leading to the North and Canada. The ‘safe houses’ where assistance was offered on the way were often the homes of Quakers. This exhibition looked to reproduce some of the secret codes said to be hidden within the symbols and patterns featured in quilts made by slaves, to pass on directions to those looking to escape.