Autograph ABP presents a rarely seen archive dating from 1904, created by English missionary Alice Seeley Harris in the Congo Free State. These pioneering photographs publicly exposed the violent consequences of human rights abuses at the turn of the century, and are exhibited alongside newly commissioned work from acclaimed contemporary Congolese artist Sammy Baloji.
In the early 1900s, the missionary Alice Seeley Harris produced what was probably the first photographic campaign in support of human rights. She exposed the atrocities that underpinned King Leopold II’s regime in the Congo Free State, bringing to public attention the plight of the Congolese people under a violent and oppressive regime.
These photographs fundamentally shifted public awareness of the deep-rooted hypocrisy of King Leopold II’s promise of colonial benevolence, and caused an outcry at the time of their publication in Europe and America.
Over 100 years later, these issues remain of primary concern to Congolese citizen and artist Sammy Baloji. Like Harris, Baloji uses photography as a medium to interrogate current political concerns with reference to the past. Acclaimed for his photomontage works that juxtapose desolate post-industrial landscapes with ethnographic archival imagery, Baloji explores the cultural and architectural ‘traces’ of a country forever haunted by the spectres of its colonial past; in particular, the southeastern Katanga province and its capital, the city of Lubumbashi.
In this new body of work-in-progress, commissioned by Autograph ABP, Baloji continues to investigate the colonial legacies and fractured histories that haunt contemporary Congolese society. Notions of African utopias, post-colonial disillusionment, and a quest for authenticity amidst ‘the ruins of modernity’ define Baloji’s multi-layered practice: the impact of Western imperialism, Maoist communism, urban segregation and colonial sanitation politics as well as the unending mineral exploitation of the Congo’s natural resources, and with it the tragedies and traumas of state-controlled violence and ongoing human rights abuses.
Congo Dialogues marks the 175th anniversary of Anti-Slavery International and the invention of photography. The first major solo showcase of Sammy Baloji’s work in the UK, this exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see both historical and contemporary works interrogating the Congo and its colonial legacies. The Alice Seeley Harris archive was last shown to the public 110 years ago.
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.
Popular Painting is a genre traceable to the 1920s, which chronicles contemporary social and political realities in Congo (then Zaïre). This art movement remains very little known outside the continent. Scholars have dedicated their research activities to Popular Painting. They often knew the main actors of the movement in the early 1970s, and shared this knowledge by publishing articles, books and exhibition catalogues. “ During a brief period between the late sixties and the late seventies, popular genre painting bloomed in the urban and industrial Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Artists, most of them self-educated, produced paintings (acrylics or oils on canvas reclaimed from flour sacking) for local use. Through a limited number of recurrent topics, they articulated a system of shared memories.
Hackney Museum's Abolition 07 exhibition told the story of British involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, the resistance to it, and its abolition, and in particular emphasised the involvement of Hackney's residents in the abolition movement. The display included new artwork by Godfried Donkor in collaboration with young Hackney artists. A film of interviews with Hackney residents, Hear My Voice, was produced. Over 1200 children from Hackney Primary Schools took part in poetry workshops at the museum with poets Adisa and Baden Prince. Their poems and responses were published in the booklet 'And Still I Rise'.
The research into Hackney's connections to the transatlantic slave trade continued in 2013-2015 with 'Local Roots / Global Routes', a collaborative project between Hackney Museum and Archives and the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project.
This piece of art by Hank Willis Thomas is based on the Brookes slave ship image which was made famous by the British abolitionist campaign against transatlantic slavery. The artist said of the piece that “Racism is the most successful advertising campaign of all time... Africans have hundreds if not thousands of years of culture. Having all of these people packed into ships and then told they’re all the same, reducing them to a single identity—that’s absolute power.”
In this exhibition the artists Sammy Baloji and Patrick Mudekereza present us with a contemporary take on the colonial past. As artists in residence in the museum they got carte blanche in the museum collections. In dialogue with scientists from the museum they have started working with a few collection pieces dating from the beginning of Congo’s colonial history. These collection pieces exhale the atmosphere of the conquest of Congolese territory by the West. The leitmotif of the exhibition ‘Congo Far West’ refers not only to this territorial conquest, but also to the contemporary Congolese artists who artistically and intellectually recapture the collection pieces conserved in the West.
Patrick Mudekereza is a writer and poet but he also writes texts for comic strips, exhibitions and audiovisual art. During his time in the museum he is working on a hybrid sculpture entitled L’art au Congo which raises a whole host of questions, and treaties signed with a cross which sealed the transfer of land from the local chefs to Leopold II. Photographer Sammy Baloji is working on a series of photographs and watercolours from a colonial exhibition led by Charles Lemaire. He has already exhibited in cities such as Paris, Bamako, Brussels, Cape Town and Bilbao. A Beautiful Time, his first solo exhibition in the United States, taking place in the Museum for African Art in New York, will be on show in in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington in 2012. Sammy Baloji and Patrick Mudekereza both live and work in Lubumbashi in DR Congo. Together they are organising the photography biennale Rencontres Picha in Lubumbashi, the third edition of which will take place in 2012.
The Badagry Heritage Museum is housed in the former district officer’s office that was constructed in 1863. The museum attempts to highlight the injustice and horror of the transatlantic slave trade, whilst also exhibiting the rich histories and cultures of Africa. There is a specific focus on the heritage of pre and post-transatlantic slave trade in Badagry. The museum consists of eight galleries each dealing with particular themes relating to local heritage and the transatlantic slave trade. Guided tours are available. The museum is managed by the Nigerian Cultural Commission.Each of eight galleries are named after a part of the transatlantic slave trade. The first, the 'Introductory Gallery', focuses on the founding and early history of Badagry. The next five galleries all deal specifically with distinct phases of the slave trade, from capture, transportation, material culture, resistance, and industry. In these galleries are objects that illustrate the brutal nature of enslavement, including shackles and manacles, as well as replicas of slave ships. The seventh gallery examines the forced integration of the enslaved into the countries they were transported to, featuring videos of reconstructed slave auctions. Finally, the last gallery explores abolition movements and the persistence of slavery even after its legal end. The museum has attempted to incoporate the voices of local people within the displays, as well as depicting the significance they place on certain cultural and historical items within the museum. In addition to the historical collections, there are also some examples of contemporary art throughout, showing modern reflections on the systems of enslavement.
A place of extraordinary cultural vitality, the creative spirit of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be honored in the exhibition Beauté Congo – 1926-2015 – Congo Kitoko presented at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain with André Magnin, Chief Curator.
Modern painting in the Congo in the 1920s: Taking as its point of departure the birth of modern painting in the Congo in the 1920s, this ambitious exhibition will trace almost a century of the country’s artistic production. While specifically focusing on painting, it will also include music, sculpture, photography, and comics, providing the public with the unique opportunity to discover the diverse and vibrant art scene of the region.
Precursors: As early as the mid-1920s, when the Congo was still a Belgian colony, precursors such as Albert and Antoinette Lubaki and Djilatendo painted the first known Congolese works on paper, anticipating the development of modern and contemporary art. Figurative or geometric in style, their works represent village life, the natural world, dreams and legends with great poetry and imagination. Following World War II, the French painter Pierre Romain-Desfossés moved to the Congo and founded an art workshop called the Atelier du Hangar. In this workshop, active until the death of Desfossés in 1954, painters such as Bela Sara, Mwenze Kibwanga and Pili Pili Mulongoy learned to freely exercize their imaginations, creating colorful and enchanting works in their own highly inventive and distinctive styles.
Popular painters: Twenty years later, the exhibition Art Partout, presented in Kinshasa in 1978, revealed to the public the painters Chéri Samba, Chéri Chérin, and Moke and other artists, many of whom are still active today. Fascinated by their urban environment and collective memory, they would call themselves “popular painters.” They developed a new approach to figurative painting, inspired by daily, political or social events that were easily recognizable by their fellow citizens. Papa Mfumu’eto, known for his independent prolific comic book production and distribution throughout Kinshasa in the 1990s, also explored daily life and common struggles throughout his work. Today younger artists like J.-P. Mika and Monsengo Shula, tuned-in to current events on a global scale, carry on the approach of their elders.
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.
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.
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.
Kongo across the Waters examines 500 years of cultural exchange between the Kongo, Europe, and the United States, showing the rise of Kongo as a major Atlantic presence and the transmission of Kongo culture through the transatlantic slave trade into American art.
Drawing from the incomparable collections of the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium, including masterpieces that have never before been seen in the United States, this groundbreaking exhibition investigates how the Kingdom of Kongo in West Central Africa evolved over five centuries and contributed to the cultural life of enslaved Africans and their descendants in North America. Manuscripts, maps, engravings, photographs, and videos provide contextual information, and the accompanying 448-page catalog further explores the art of the Kongo and of the Kongo diaspora.
Kongo across the Waters is a joint project organized by the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, and the Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium, and is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. At Princeton, supplementary interpretive content has been developed by the Princeton University Art Museum. The exhibition at Princeton has been made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts; the Frances E. and Elias Wolf, Class of 1920, Fund; Susan and John Diekman, Class of 1965; the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project; the Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; and an anonymous fund. Additional funds have been provided by the Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Exhibitions Fund; Heather and Paul G. Haaga Jr., Class of 1970; Holly and David Ross; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and by the Center for African American Studies, the Program in African Studies, the Office of Religious Life, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Department of English, Princeton University. Further support has been provided by the Partners and Friends of the Princeton University Art Museum.
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.
Open since April 2018, the Legacy Museum is built on the site of a former warehouse where enslaved Africans were imprisoned. The site is located between an historic slave market and the main river dock and train station where tens of thousands of enslaved people were transported through at the height of the domestic slave trade. Today it is a short walk from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in the heart of downtown Montgomery, Alabama. The museum’s mission is to acknowledge and present the legacies of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation in the United States. The Legacy Museum is used to educate people about long-standing racial inequality in America and prompt them to search for truth and reconciliation with the aim of developing real solutions to contemporary problems. Its managing organisation, the Equal Justice Initiative, was founded in 1989 by Bryan Stevenson and was initially set up to help the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned. In continuing this spirit of active community engagement, the museum also runs concerts and academic summits, and actively participates in human rights campaigning in Alabama.
The museum exhibition begins by showing replica constructions of slave pens, accompanied by unique audio and visual effects, attempting to allow visitors to empathise with an imprisoned slave waiting to be sold at the nearby auction block. There are also first-person accounts from enslaved people, portrayed on film by actors. Alongside these audio-visual experiences there are also more traditional exhibits that examine America’s history of racial injustice and its legacy, drawing connections across generations of Americans impacted by racial difference. These exhibits feature artefacts and archival materials. The museum also includes pieces of contemporary art, commissioned with creative partners to depict contemporary responses to the ongoing legacies of slavery and racial inequalities.
On the former site of a sugar factory, Guadelopue's Memorial ACTe stands as a cultural institution that aims to preserve the memory of those who suffered during slavery, as well as to act as a space for discussion on the continuing repercussions. Part of UNESCO's Slave Route project, its main focus is on the challenges of bondage in the Guadeloupe islands. Memorial ACTe was opened in 2015 by then French President, Francois Hollande, and nineteen other heads of state.
The Memorial ACTe is a unique museum, both internally and externally, through its architectural design. It is also a centre for live arts and debates. It aims to provide interpretation through a variety of viewpoints and disciplines, using not only history but ethnology, social anthropology and history of art as well. The history of slavery and the slave trade are explored through a range of archival material, images and artefacts, with visual and audio installations too.
The permanent exhibition space examines the history of slavery from antiquity to the present day, using objects, reconstructions, visual and audio installations and digital interactives. The temporary exhibition space focusses on contemporary forms of artistic expression in relation to slavery around the world. In addition, there is a research centre where visitors can look into their genealogy, as well as a library and a conference hall.
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.
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.
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.