'Procession of native dancers in honour of white men's visit to their village, Bolima Districts, upper Congo.' Description taken from the original caption for the archived photograph. MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 17 / B7 (Box 7), Bodleain Library, University of Oxford. This photograph formed part of the Harris Lantern Slide Collection. Under King Leopold II the Congo Free State used mass forced labour to extract rubber from the jungle for the European market. As consumer demand grew King Leopold II's private army - the Force Publique - used violent means to coerce the population into meeting quotas, including murder, mutilation, rape, village burning, starvation and hostage taking. Alice Seeley Harris and her husband Reverend John H. Harris were missionaries in the Congo Free State from the late 1890s. Alice produced a collection of images documenting the horrific abuses of the African rubber labourers. Her photographs are considered to be an important development in the history of humanitarian campaigning. The images were used in a number of publications. The Harrises also used the photographs to develop the Congo Atrocity Lantern Lecture which toured Britain and the the USA raising awareness of the issue of colonial abuses under King Leopold II's regime. Source: Antislavery International.
Black Heroes in the Hall of Fame is an acclaimed stage musical which highlights the contributions and achievements made by black men and women in the world of sports, science and entertainment. First launched as a community project in 1987 at the Shaw Theatre in Camden, the production was created by Flip Fraser in collaboration with JD Douglas and Khareem Jamal. The show was the first all-black cast production to play in the West End. It returned in 2007 with a new line-up of characters, songs and dances, and recreated significant moments in black history including Kings and Queens of Africa, Freedom Fighters, Great Entertainers as well as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela. The musical toured London, Croydon, Nottingham, Oxford and Bristol in 2007.
In Autumn 2007, the opera 'The Woman Who Refused To Dance' by composer and conductor Shirley J Thompson was performed at Westminster Palace, Houses of Parliament. The piece was based on a 1792 print by Isaac Cruickshank - entitled 'The abolition of the slave trade, or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in the cruel treatment of a young negro girl of 15 for her virgin modesty' - depicting a woman who refused to dance on board a slave ship, and who was hung from one leg as punishment. The opera has recently been re-premiered to mark the 210th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
The dance-theatre production Heartbeat Riddim Chant was based on the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. The production premiered at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds in July 2007, and mixed dance, live music and voice, including traditional Caribbean folk dancing blended with contemporary reggae. The show was choreographed by David Hamilton, and featured dancers from Regeyshun Dance and members of the community dance group Back Bone. There were also performances from youth dance groups and young voices from across Leeds, including LS7 Result, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Gee4orce and Leeds Young Authors.
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.
To spotlight Harewood House's historic links with the Caribbean and carnival, in September 2007 a production of Carnival Messiah was held in a Big Top in the grounds. Carnival Messiah is a reinvention of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio Messiah as carnival theatre and heritage experience. The West Indian celebration features dancers, singers, masqueraders, musicians and actors. Stories from the Caribbean folk tradition, medieval mystery plays and African ritual combine with contemporary popular music and dance styles, including gospel, calypso, reggae, jazz, hop hop, bhangra and steel band. Geraldine Connor was Creator and Artistic Director and David Lascelles of Harewood House was Executive Producer. A community education and outreach programme ran alongside the project.
A programme of events and activities for Black History Month 2007 from Yaa Asantewaa Arts and Community Centre had a particular focus on the bicentenary. The programme included theatre, youth projects and family days. Calypso Fuh So performed special Calypsos to mark the bicentenary, and YAA/Carnival Village organised a commemorative walk to remember ancestors who died in slavery, and the Black presence in Britain. Ritual Theatre Arts created a film celebrating thirty years of African dance in Britain and International Word Power featured performances of poetry, storytelling and song.
The industrialist Sir Henry Tate was the early benefactor of the Tate Collection, rooted in the art of the 18th and 19th centuries. Tate's fortune - much of which was spent on philanthropic initiatives in Britain - was founded on the importation and refining of sugar, a commodity inextricably linked to slave labour in the Caribbean. There were a number of initiatives across the Tate galleries to explore these connections. 'Tracks of Slavery' at Tate Britain displayed a selection of images from the Tate's collections which provided a commentary on the relationship of British society with slavery. Displays at Tate Modern included a selection of new acquisitions linked by their treatment of issues arising from slavery and oppression. Tate Liverpool exhibited paintings by Ellen Gallagher. Special events included Freedom Songs at Tate Britain (workshops to create poetry and music by exploring themes of slavery and freedom) and a discussion at Tate St Ives looking at the links between Cornish maritime traditions, the slave trade and the Caribbean.
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.
A carnival of dance held at Moggerhanger Park in Bedfordshire in Summer 2008 to mark the bicentenary. The project was led by arts organisation T. Hop (The H'art of Performance) with schoolchildren from Stephenson Lower and Moggerhanger Lower School. The theme was the history of carnival and slavery in Trinidad.
Trading Faces: Recollecting Slavery was a consortium project developed by Future Histories (a non-profit organisation set up to maintain archives of African, Caribbean and Asian performing arts in the UK), Talawa Theatre Company (a leading Black-led touring theatre company) and V&A Theatre Collections. Trading Faces made use of archive documents, video and audio material to explore the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade in British performing arts and society. By promoting the use of primary resources, the online exhibition aimed to stimulate creativity, critical thinking, individual responsibility and participation. Highlights of the exhibition included a performance timeline featuring recently archived material from the past 200 years, narratives of slavery from both the past and present and a series of virtual rooms, which explored ritual, religion, carnival and masquerade amongst other aesthetic themes. On the Open Doors section of the site, users contributed material and ideas to promote a critical debate on the subject. As part of the project, the 'Retrace: Identity and Heritage' educational resource pack from Talawa Theatre Company is about the exchange of culture between the UK and other countries linked by the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism, and the impact of these relationships on the performing arts.
The African and African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative (ACKHI) is a not-for-profit Black Afrikan-led community organisation, with the aim is to promote, protect and preserve the history, heritage and culture, of peoples of Black African heritage living or working in Oxfordshire. The Out of Africa programme of events in 2007 included an exhibition of books about slavery and the slave trade, which toured Oxfordshire libraries, and performances of African music and contemporary dance. The ‘Remembering Slavery’ commemorative service was held in Christ Church Cathedral. ‘Connections’ was a research project looking at Oxfordshire’s links to the system of slavery and the slave trade. ‘InTentCity’ was a visual arts project, in partnership with Fusion Arts, bringing together cultural groups, primary schools and artists to transform tents into works of art – one theme addressed was ‘Freedom’. Reflecting the legacy of the system of slavery and the slave trade, ‘Common Threads’ was an exhibition of textile work by the Textiles for Peace group, local women representing multi-cultural Oxfordshire. In ‘Ancestral Souls’, the African Women’s Art Collection (AWAC) collaborated with women of African descent to produce and exhibit 200 dolls to represent the diaspora of African peoples.
Karibu provides information, advice and help service to African women and their families in Ipswich and Suffolk. Karibu women joined the celebrations marking African History Month in Suffolk in 2007. The event 'Reaching Out Promoting Cultural Values' was designed to reach out to other local communities. It featured a keynote speaker address, workshops on health and beauty, and parades of foods and culture from Africa. 'Our Children Our Pride' was an activity day featuring carnival arts and crafts, drumming sessions, dance, and stories from Africa.
The annual Cardiff Carnival was organised by South Wales Intercultural Community Arts (SWICA) from 1990 until 2015. The theme in 2007 to coincide with the bicentenary was Rhythms of Resistance, which included carnival arts and samba workshops at community venues across Cardiff.
A bicentenary brochure detailing some of the arts and non-arts activities held in Derby throughout 2007 to mark the bicentenary involving schools, community groups and other organisations. These included performances from the University of Derby's Student's Union, a debate at Derby City Council House, and a presentation of archive material from BBC Radio Derby's African Caribbean Show. The Freedom Showcase featured nine performers and writers from Leicester, Nottingham and Derby sharing their personal visions of 'Freedom' through a variety of spoken styles, from poetry, to rap and monologues. The costumes on display at Derby's Caribbean Carnival in July 2007 depicted positive images of the enslaved surviving and resisting slavery. Derby West Indian Community Association led a performance of dance and drama to depict slavery and its impact on young people, and a school project around the theme of slavery. Creative Thought was part of a Renaissance East Midlands funded Community Learning initiative. Working with an artist, participants explored the concept of slavery and its links to Derby's industrial heritage using The Silk Mill as inspiration. Tactile objects were created to share understanding about links with slavery.
Leicester's Black History Season in October-November 2007 marked the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. Its aim was to redress the balance from a 'Eurocentric point of view' of abolition, and focus on the Afrikan perspective with the theme of 'Souls of Black Folk'. Musical performances included gospel, Motown, reggae and jazz. Other events in venues across Leicester and Loughborough included traditional South African dance, contemporary dance, performance poetry, comedy, multimedia performances, storytelling, theatre and an exhibition, 'Africa's Gift', focusing on the economic and cultural contributions of the slaves and their descendants.
Liverpool hosted a city-wide programme of activities and projects to commemorate the bicentenary, as part of events to mark the city's 800th birthday. The events aimed to celebrate the African Diaspora and support works by artists of African descent. They included: LEAP, an annual contemporary dance festival featuring African dance companies; a performance of Mighty Diamonds - Reggae Legends at the Philharmonic Hall; the Roscoe Lectures; the Brouhaha International Carnival, celebrating resistance, rebellion and abolition; the Africa Oyé Music Festival at Sefton Park; the Bound exhibition at Open Eye Gallery, showing works representing personal perspectives on the physical and psychological impact of slavery on humanity; and many other lectures and debates. There was also a slavery trail around the city.
In 2007 Liverpool's annual Writing on the Wall arts festival explored the legacy of slavery through words, music, lyrics, song, dance and discussion. Authors, campaigners and social commentators explored the themes of the bicentenary and Liverpool's 800th birthday. The festival aimed to celebrate diversity and promote inter-cultural tolerance. Speakers included one of the nine Britons detained in Guantanamo, Cuba. Among the performers was dub poet Benjamin Zephaniah joined by Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Levi Tafari, and featuring the MDI African Dancers for an 'extravaganza of rhythm and rhyme' at the Royal Philharmonic Hall. Liverpool Young Writers was launched by Writing on the Wall in 2007. Members have recently performed at Slavery Remembrance Day and the International Slavery Museum.