During the Industrial Revolution Nottingham was famous for the manufacture of lace. In 2007 British-Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor, supported by The New Art Exchange and the Centre for Contemporary Art in the city, investigated the often-neglected connections between this luxurious commodity and the cotton picked by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and American South. The research culminated in an exhibition, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West There Was Lace’, at the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall in early 2008. The Elizabethan manor is also home to the Industrial Museum which holds lace-making machinery. A key part of the display were outfits created from brightly coloured lace, now a prized material in West Africa. Donkor's paintings on pages of the Financial Times represented people, culture and goods crossing the Atlantic in different eras. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of public events which looked at the links between the city’s past lace-making industry and slavery, including lectures and a free symposium.
An exhibition at the British Museum exploring how the transatlantic slave trade functioned. The display examined the commodities involved - tobacco, guns, textiles, sugar, rum - and the ways in which Africa, Europe and the Americas were linked in a global trade network. The exhibition also looked at resistance leaders including Toussaint L'Ouverture, Olaudah Equiano and Nanny of the Maroons, and their struggles to end enslavement. The exhibition was accompanied by a varied public programme at the museum exploring the legacy of the slave trade as part of the Atlantic Trade and Identity season, featuring film screenings, panel discussions, seminars and lectures.
An exhibition exploring the connections between the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway and the transatlantic slave trade toured Dumfries Museum, the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright and Stranraer Museum. At each venue, the exhibition was accompanied by displays of material and a lecture. The catalogue of new research to supplement the exhibition by Frances Wilkins set out to correct misunderstandings about the role of people from the region in the transatlantic slave trade, to prove a history of connections independent of Glasgow or anywhere else. Evidence suggests that men from smaller towns such as Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were involved in the transatlantic slave trade as merchants, slave traders or plantation owners. For example, in the late 18th century, plantation supplies were sent from Kirkcudbright to the island of Grenada; the vessels returned with rum, sugar, and cotton wool.
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.
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.
Bluecoat Display Centre is a contemporary craft and design gallery in Liverpool. The 200 Years: Slavery Now exhibition aimed to draw attention to modern slavery, both within the UK and in the wider international context. It brought together ten artists whose work reflected these concerns, and who were committed to highlighting the existence of slavery today through the creation of artefacts and the development of personal narratives. Materials used included ceramics, mixed media installations and textiles. Some of the themes covered included the exploitation of migrant workers, sex trafficking, 'sweat shop' mass production, and commemorating the Middle Passage and the workers of Manchester's cotton mills. The exhibition was curated by Professor Stephen Dixon, with the support of the Craft and Design Research Centre, MIRIAD, at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Lancaster was the UK's fourth largest slaving port at the height of the transatlantic slave trade in the 18th century. Lancashire Museums worked with a range of partners to raise awareness of this largely hidden history - first from 2002 through STAMP (the Slave Trade Arts Memorial Project), and in 2007 through Abolished? This bicentenary project consisted of exhibitions, creative writing, radio broadcasts, and schools projects, one of which produced a Slavery Town Trail that explored some of the buildings made possible by the wealth the slave trade brought to Lancaster. At the heart of the project were commissioned installations and interventions by artists Lubaina Himid ('Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service' at the Judge's Lodgings) and Sue Flowers ('One Tenth' at Lancaster Maritime Museum). Both were accompanied by outreach programmes and workshops with local schools. A touring exhibition was produced in partnership with Anti-Slavery International and Lancashire County Council Youth and Community, which looked at transatlantic slavery and modern day slavery. The exhibition toured throughout Lancashire.
SCAWDI are a Birmingham-based community group specialising in working with local volunteers to research the early presence of Black people in the West Midlands. In collaboration with English Heritage, ‘Interwoven Freedom’ enabled a group of local women to visit archives, exhibitions and historic sites and explore the role of women in the abolitionist movement. The participants drew on traditions of abolitionist women such as Elizabeth Cadbury creating and distributing workbags filled with anti-slavery manifestos by making their own textile bags from fair trade cotton and African cloth. They wrote their own manifestos which mixed historical facts with fictional stories and poems. The accompanying exhibition of textiles, text panels and an audio documentary toured London and 11 regional venues. The exhibition included photographs documenting the project by photographer Vanley Burke.
The Whitworth Art Gallery was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
'Trade and Empire: Remembering Slavery' explored the themes of trade and empire, commerce and collecting, and the impact of the experience of slavery and its legacy. Four invited artists and academics (SuAndi, Kevin Dalton-Johnson, Dr Emma Poulter and Dr Alan Rice) worked with Whitworth curators and learning staff to create the exhibition. It comprised of selections from the Whitworth's collections, contemporary works by Black artists, and objects on loan from Manchester Museum, John Rylands University Library Manchester, Bolton Museums and Archives Service and private collections. Areas of focus included a history of the Benin Bronzes, representations of Black people in British art, photographs of West Africa belonging to Tom Singleton Gardner, and printed textiles designed by Althea McNish. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of community engagement events.
Touchstones Rochdale was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
Rochdale's connections to slavery were explored though two exhibitions at Touchstones Rochdale, which featured museum trails and family events. 'The Fight to End Slavery: A Local Story' examined the town's role in the struggle to end slavery in North America, including the work of prominent abolitionists from Lancashire. The exhibition also looked at the impact of the Lancashire cotton famine, which occurred as a result of the blockade of southern American ports during the Civil War. 'Linking Threads: Textile Industrialists and the Art Collection' focused on works given to the Rochdale Art Gallery collection by benefactors who had links to the local textile industry, such as Robert Taylor Heape and Richard Heape.
The Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery project sought to uncover the North West's involvement in the slave trade (and the consequent social and economic effects of this involvement) and the region's contribution to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and colonial slavery. Eight museums and galleries across Greater Manchester collaborated to commemorate the lasting legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. The participating venues were: Bolton Museum and Archive Service; Gallery Oldham; Manchester Art Gallery; The Manchester Museum; Museum of Science and Industry; People's History Museum; Touchstones Rochdale; and Whitworth Art Gallery. A collaborative website and a programme of exhibitions, trails, performances, films and events took a new look at the collections of these museums and galleries and the buildings in which they are housed, revealing hidden histories of the region's involvement in the slave trade. The project also examined slavery's contemporary legacy and relevance.
Remembering Slavery 2007 involved museums, galleries and other cultural organisations across the North East of England in a programme of exhibitions, events, performances, lectures and activities to explore the themes of slavery and abolition, and identify connections with the region.
In Sunderland, the Museum and Winter Gardens hosted a varied programme of activities under the Remembering Slavery 2007 umbrella, including African drumming sessions, African inspired textile crafts, poetry workshops and storytelling. There were also guided walks around the sites associated with James Field Stanfield, the leading Sunderland campaigner against the slave trade. Elsewhere in the city, The Power of Words: an Image of Africa Past and Present was a creative writing project in collaboration with the Sunderland African Association. Participants worked with poet and writer Sheree Mack to produce poems exploring slavery and its relevance in contemporary times.
Into Africa was an exhibition held at the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough, which examined the textile collaboration between Britain and West Africa after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The exhibition focused on the textile samples of Christopher Dresser, the most prominent industrial product designer of the Victorian period. The samples were originally made for European markets, but increasingly became popular in West African textile trades in the late 19th century. The exhibition placed the samples in the context of African textile history, the Lancashire cotton trade and modern day exports.