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.
Nottingham Castle Museum held two exhibitions in 2007. Inspired by the anti-slavery medallion produced by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1790s, a group of young people from Nottingham’s African Caribbean community worked with artist Katherine Morling to explore issues surrounding slavery and the representation of black people in art. The group worked under the name Sankofa. The ceramic Globe of Freedom was fired at the Wedgwood factory in Staffordshire, and was displayed at Nottingham Castle Museum alongside the Wedgwood medallion. The word ‘FREEDOM’ is impressed on one side and ‘EQUALITY’ impressed on the other. A replica sculpture is still used as part of a handling collection loaned to schools and community groups in the Nottingham region. A second exhibition, in collaboration with the Open University in the East Midlands, looked at the British slave trade using slave narratives, telling the story of three survivors of slavery: Mary Prince, Robert Wedderburn and Quobna Ottobah Cugoano.
In conjunction with York Theatre Royal, Riding Lights Theatre Company produced a new play written by Murray Watts, directed by Paul Burbridge, with original music by Nigerian musician Ben Okafor. African Snow: Secrets of the trade was originally commissioned by the Church Mission Society, an organisation founded in 1799 by representatives of the abolition movement, including William Wilberforce. The play sought to explore the ideas associated with antislavery and how they can be put to use in the modern day campaign for the end of slavery. Opening at York, the play went on to have a West End Transfer followed by a national tour. The main characters are John Newton, the converted slave-trader who later wrote 'Amazing Grace', and the former slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano. The play saw them confronting each other’s differing perspectives, creating a dialogue in which the audience could witness alternative views towards slavery. A 'snow' was a class of ship, commonly used for the transportation of slaves. 'The African' was the first slave ship on which John Newton sailed.
A performance by the London Shakespeare Workout based on George MacDonald Fraser's novel 'Black Ajax'. The play, set in Regency England, tells the historical tale of two enslaved men through dialogue, song and verse. One slave is from America, another is from Africa. The former, Tom Molineaux, becomes the first Black Prize Fighter in Britain. Black Atlas featured an original score by Tim Williams. The play opened in Cambridge and toured to 40 different venues around the UK.
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.
Chez Mima, African Goods Store
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.
Dadinho, Dahinho Distributions, London Fresh Congolese and African Food Store
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.
Down at the Bamboo Club was organised by Picture This, an artists' film and video commissioning agency in Bristol. The project was an exhibition of artists' video exploring Bristol's cultural histories and ideas of legacy. Contemporary artists worked with community groups to develop films and events that used the device of re-enactment to explore subjects such as community relations, identity, the legacy of slave trading in the city and histories of division and solidarity. One such film was 'Bamboo Memories' by Barby Asante. The Bamboo Club was a legendary Bristol nightclub in the 1960's and 1970's which holds great significance for older generations in the city as a place where first groups of African-Caribbeans socialised with white Bristolians.
Uncle and wife adopts nieces and nephews who move into the city, Kinshasa Unknown baby now deceased.
'Field Slave Number 139' was written and produced by Ava Ming, and commissioned by The Drum in Birmingham as part of their Routes to Freedom programme. The play focuses on a love story between a dark-skinned field slave and mulatto house slave on a plantation in America's Deep South. 'Field Slave Number 139' is written mostly in monologues with occasional interaction between the actors: all three were on stage for the duration of the piece. The 2007 production featured two performance poets and a local actor.
'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.
East Riding's Freedom Festival in 2007 commemorated the abolition of the slave trade and explored issues of modern day slavery through a multi-sensory performance featuring pupils from mainstream and special schools in the East Riding area. The play was in three parts - the transatlantic slave trade, emancipation and modern day slavery. Resources and activities from the project were then made available to schools interested in developing an inclusive arts project.
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.
Golgotha, Afro-Caribbean Hair Salon, Lualua Wear
The Wilberforce Women project was launched by the Hull Women's Centre with the support of Wilberforce 2007. Hull based photojournalist Lee Karen Stow worked with groups of women from the twinned towns of Hull and Freetown (Sierra Leone), through photography and messages of friendship. Women from Hull were invited to think about themes of Pride, Freedom, Belief and Change and contribute a photograph on the chosen theme to send as greetings to women in Freetown. To return the greetings, women in Freetown were taught basic photography skills in order to interpret their own thoughts on the themes. A selection of the images were displayed at the Humber BBC Open Centre and on the BBC Humber website, as well as a dedicated exhibition at the Ferens Art Gallery and at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation. A second stage of the project saw the images and messages being collated into a photographic book and DVD.
Hebden Bridge Arts Festival commemorated the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 2007 in performances and exhibitions, and extending out from that, to a celebration of the idea of freedom. Events linked to the consideration of freedom had a broken chain as an identifying symbol in the festival brochure. Highlights included the world premiere of 'Can't Chain Up Me Mind' by the Grand Union Orchestra, a celebration of jazz and emancipation.
J. Mundeke, Kingston Upon Thames, U.K. 1st Generation British born Congolese/Angolan, London