Exploring the role of women and food from the Congo basin in the past and today, MAA’s first exhibition in our rebranded spotlight gallery is co-curated with the Congo Great Lakes Initiative.
Changing Perspectives was a community-based initiative based around the experiences of twenty-five African and Caribbean families from the North-East, to explore how their life in the UK contrasts with the lives of their ancestors. The project created a multimedia archive of cultural responses to celebrate the heritage of these families. This included oral testimonies, creative writing, photography, digital storytelling and art, emerging from a variety of community-led workshops. A series of workshops were held at Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections (pictured), including a session aimed at children and young people, which focused on the experiences of children in the slave trade via extracts from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano. Project outputs included a book, an interactive website, an exhibition of words and pictures of the community, an oral testimony collection, and series of documentary films. A key aim of the project was to promote community cohesion and develop cross cultural awareness and understanding.
The museum was established by Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynaecologist who envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. It opened in 1965 as Detroit’s first international Afro-American museum. After expansions in 1978 and 1992, the museum was finally named the Charles H. Wright museum after its founder in 1998. It has since received monetary support from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government sources. The mission statement of the museum is to open minds and change lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture.
Current exhibitions on display in the museum include a large 22,000 square-foot exhibition that examines Ancient and Early Modern African history and the experiences of the enslaved during the Middle Passage, alongside the experiences of those who resisted the horrors of bondage and self-emancipation. Throughout this exhibition, entitled ‘And Still We Rise: Our Journey Through African American History and Culture,’ there is a clear emphasis on the efforts of the everyday African American people who built families, businesses, educational institutions, and civic organisations in Detroit, past and present. The museum also offers exhibitions that look at the contributions of African Americans in science and technology, as well as showcasing examples of stained glass art by Samuel A. Hodge.
The museum has a busy events programme that includes community health and fitness programs, as well as lectures and education sessions for both children and adults. There are group tours for all ages, as well as led workshops for pre-school children. All of these workshops aim to highlight the lessons portrayed in the ‘And We Rise’ exhibition, prompting reflection and discussion from visitors.
COSTA stood for 'Commemoration of Slave Trade Abolition' and was a project of Sul'Art, a community art organisation in Bristol. Sul'Art delivered a programme of music, drama, art and dance to a number of schools and community groups to explore meanings of the bicentenary, working around themes such as migration, identity, celebration of difference, critiques of consumerism and intergenerational dialogue. Sul'Art also presented a number of performances of the professional jazz show ‘King Cotton’, dramatising the story of the cotton industry in music, song and film.
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.
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.
In 2007 Westminster City Council supported a programme of events in the libraries, galleries and archives of the area, including films, walks and exhibitions, designed to provide opportunities to learn about the culture of Westminster's communities. Highlights included guided heritage walks with historian S. I. Martin, exhibitions of images from the Royal Geographical Society in Paddington Library, Maida Vale Library and Westminster Reference Library, and film screenings (in partnership with 100 Black Men of London). A partnership between the City of Westminster Archives Centre, Tate Britain, Parliamentary Archives, National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery produced a heritage trail 'On the Road to Abolition: Ending the British Slave Trade', which takes in key sites, events and individuals in Westminster relating to the slave trade, between Trafalgar Square and Pimlico. In celebration of Black History Month, Westminster City Council produced a booklet, 'Black History in Westminster', detailing some of the borough's influential Black residents.
Everywhere in Chains was an umbrella project created for the bicentenary commemorations in 2007, by a collaboration between Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, the National Library of Wales, University of Wales, Bangor and CyMAL: Museum Archives and Libraries Wales (part of the Welsh Assembly Government). An exhibition explored Welsh involvement in slavery, especially focusing on the transatlantic slave trade and its abolition, the Black presence in Wales, and legacies of slavery. This was shown at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea from May to November 2007 before touring to Wrexham County Borough Museum. The touring version of the exhibition was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. The exhibition in Wrexham included discussion of the painting 'A Negro Coachboy', thought to commemorate a black servant of John Meller, owner of the Erddig estate in the 18th century.
Alongside the exhibition, the Everywhere in Chains programme also included lectures, formal learning activities and performances. An educational pack was produced by CyMAL and distributed to every school in Wales in 2009-2010. A community project created a forum in which participants from many cultural backgrounds could voice their ideas about enslavement. The Everywhere in Chains Community Heritage Toolkit captured the learning from this project. The toolkit, launched in 2009, was produced to help individuals, groups and organisations to work with culture and heritage providers to undertake projects focused on the role of Wales in the transatlantic slave trade and issues of modern slavery.
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons holds the human and comparative anatomy collections of the surgeon John Hunter (1728-1793). The Exhibiting Difference project was the Hunterian Museum’s contribution to the bicentenary, exploring the history of the transatlantic slave trade through the history of medicine and the experiences of those who lived on the margins of society. Exhibiting Difference focused on the hidden histories of Black Africans living with skin pigmentation conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries, and thus explored issues of identity, self-image and cultural distinctiveness. Curated by Temi Odumosu, the exhibition ‘A Visible Difference: skin, race and identity 1720-1820’ was opened at the Hunterian Museum, featuring portraits of Black African slave children, Mary Sabina and George Alexander Gratton, who both had the skin pigmentation condition piebaldism. The museum also worked with over 200 secondary school students and four professional artists to create a display of sculpture, painting, collage, photography, film and sound recording reflecting the themes of the project. Learning resources were produced to support citizenship education.
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.
'Freedom and Culture' was a year-long nationwide programme to mark the bicentenary, conceived by Baroness Lola Young of Cultural Brokers (London) and Dr Nima Poowaya-Smith of Alchemy (based in Leeds). In partnership with artists, activists and cultural commentators, the programme explored the dimensions of oppression and freedom around the bicentenary, culminating in a weekend 'celebrating creativity and the African Diaspora' at the Southbank Centre in November 2007. One of several exhibitions that took place as part of the initiative was ‘Crossing the Waters’ at Cartwright Hall in Bradford, which took its central metaphor from the transatlantic slave trade. Almost all the works shown – from Sonia Boyce, Yinka Shonibare and others – were drawn from the permanent collections of Bradford Museums, Galleries and Heritage. The exhibition later toured to the City Gallery, Leicester in 2008.
FWords was a creative response of eight Yorkshire writers and artists to the commemoration of the Abolition Act, in a project led by Peepal Tree Press in Leeds. Focusing on the many variations of the theme of 'Freedom', Fwords was created to raise the profile of Yorkshire's rich heritage of talented artists, descendants of those who migrated, forcefully and otherwise from Africa and beyond. The work of six writers was illustrated with work from two visual artists, and with a foreword from Caryl Phillips. The project was supported by printed materials, broadcasts, digital and dedicated web pages.
Gilt of Cain was unveiled by the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Fen Court, City of London, in September 2008. The artwork, a collaboration by sculptor Michael Visocchi and poet Lemn Sissay, commemorates the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. The granite sculpture is composed of a group of columns surrounding a podium – suggesting an ecclesiastical pulpit or slave auctioneer’s block. Extracts from Lemn Sissay’s poem, ‘Gilt of Cain’, are engraved into the granite.
Fen Court is the site of a churchyard formerly of St Gabriel’s Fenchurch St and now in the Parish of St Edmund the King and St Mary Woolnoth, Lombard St. The latter has a strong historical connection with the British abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries: Reverend John Newton, a slave-trader turned preacher and abolitionist, was rector of St Mary Woolnoth between 1780 – 1807. This project was initiated by Black British Heritage and the Parish of St Mary Woolnoth and was commissioned by the City of London Corporation in partnership with the British Land Company.
A display in the entrance foyer of Guernsey Museum in 2007 explored the island's connections with slavery and the slave trade. Relevant items from the museum's collection included a slave collar and chain from a slaver intercepted by a Guernsey captain on anti-slavery patrols, and a 17th-century portrait of Anne de Beauvoir and a slave child. Guernsey was involved in the transatlantic slave trade via islanders directly involved in the traffic (for example, Thomas Ebworthy of the ship 'Anne Galley'); ships known to be involved, such as the 'African' and the 'Fanny'; and islanders' involvement with the supply of goods or services.
Curated by artist Kimathi Donkor, and first exhibited at London’s Elspeth Kyle Gallery, Hawkins & Co referred to the Elizabethan mariner Sir John Hawkins, whose 16th century voyages to Africa and the Caribbean pioneered the British slave trade. In 2008, an expanded version of the project, featuring over 70 artworks from 15 contemporary artists, 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.
In 2017, a key work from the project - 'UK Diaspora' - was added to the permanent collections of the International Slavery Museum.
A collaborative project between Barnsley Archives and Local Studies, the Cooper Gallery and Cannon Hall exploring local connections to the slave trade. Cannon Hall is the ancestral home of the Spencer Family, who made their fortune in the local iron industry. In the mid-18th century, Benjamin Spencer became involved in the slave trade, and owned a slave ship called ‘Cannon Hall’; in contrast, Walter Spencer-Stanhope, who inherited the hall in 1775, supported the abolitionist movement. Pupils from local primary schools explored the hall’s connections to the slave trade and abolitionism, and produced artwork in response to the hidden histories, some of which were exhibited in the Cooper Gallery’s exhibition, ‘Witness’.
The ‘Hidden Stories’ project also explored the Crossley Family archive held by Barnsley Archives and Local Studies (Benjamin Crossley owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica). Barnsley Archives worked with the Barnsley Black and Ethnic Minority Initiative on a project to encourage black and minority ethnic groups in the Barnsley area to discover more about their roots. Other partners included Barnsley Out of School Study Support Network, Foulstone City Learning Centre and Just Addictive Music.
'House Slave - Field Slave: A Portrait of Contemporary Slavery' by Nicola Green was first exhibited at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in October 2007. It was then exhibited as part of Haringey's Black History Month at Bruce Castle Museum in October - December 2010. Nicola's triptych is now in the permanent collection at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool.
Nicola Green's portrait of contemporary slavery 'House Slave - Field Slave' was made for and in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International to commemorate the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007. The exhibition consists of a large 'altarpiece' scale triptych with preparatory studies. These are set alongside artefacts of contemporary slavery from the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and the extraordinary photos and text from Anti-Slavery International, which inspired this work. The painting tells the story of contemporary slavery. There are an estimated 12 million people in the world today who are still enslaved - even though the British slave trade was abolished 200 years ago.
'House Slave - Field Slave: A Portrait of Contemporary Slavery' was created in 2007 by Nicola Green in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International and first exhibited at Dulwich Picture Gallery. The artwork explored the concept of contemporary slavery and the stories of those still enslaved. The exhibition consisted of a large 'altarpiece' scale triptych set alongside artefacts of contemporary slavery from the International Slavery Museum and photos and text from Anti-Slavery International. It was later exhibited as part of Haringey's Black History Month at Bruce Castle Museum in 2010. The triptych is now in the permanent collection at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Workshops were held at Dulwich Picture Gallery, The Prince’s Drawing Clubs, and International Slavery Museum in which students developed their skills in reading a work of art as a narrative, and responded by creating artworks that told their own personal story.
Human Cargo was a partnership project between Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. The project consisted of two main components. The first was a historical exhibition, which explored the development of the transatlantic slave trade and, in particular, the role of Plymouth as a port, the involvement of the City's dignitaries and the South West's links with the abolition movement. The second part was a contemporary art response to modern forms of slavery and historical legacies, including the flower picking trade, sweatshop labour and the Fair Trade Movement. This work was newly commissioned and included audio visual pieces, installations, hand-printed wallpaper and participatory objects. A variety of events and activities took place alongside the exhibition including education workshops, performances, African music and storytelling activities, and Elizabethan House re-enactment sessions.
‘I Dream of Congo: Narratives from The Great Lakes’ is a unique exhibition combining words and images from renowned international creatives alongside a groundbreaking exhibition of photos taken by women in eastern Congo. The exhibition celebrates the hope and optimism that pervades in the region despite years of war. It poses hard questions around the international community’s inaction in the face of the conflict, the continuing illicit trade in minerals from Congo and the failure to stem the tide of sexual violence.
During the February 2013 exhibition launch, The Frontline Club, Women for Women International, One Billion Rising and Save the Congo held events in the space that related to the theme. The exhibition was first shown in February 2013 at Conway Hall London, before moving on to other venues in the UK, including a conference on the Democratic Republic of Congo at St Andrews University in April 2013. In 2014, 'I Dream of Congo' formed part of the 'Brutal Exposure' exhibition at the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. Most recently, the exhibition appeared at the June Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London's Excel Centre, spearheaded by William Hague and Angelina Jolie. At this Summit we hosted an exclusive event and film screening with Dr Denis Mukwege.