This sculpture of the abolitionist Olaudah Equiano was made by London-based sculptor Christy Symington in 2006 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade, with the intent to further share Equiano's story. It was first exhibited by selection at the Society of Portrait Sculptors 'FACE 2007' annual exhibition. The sculpture portrays Olaudah Equiano’s social standing through his clothing and hairstyle which was unusual for a black man in that time. The continent of Africa is implied by the shape of the back of his shoulders arrived at by chance whilst modelling. Broken shackles and chains are sculpted down the side of the sculpture, prompting his opposition to slavery as an abolitionist and his path to freedom. The Brookes slave ship diagram and an enlarged detail of a single enslaved female figure from the diagram are found on the stem of the sculpture - a reminder that there were women and children on the ships as well as men.
Since 2007, the sculpture has featured in several other exhibitions including 'OLAUDAH EQUIANO MAN AND BROTHER' at the Stephen Lawrence Centre Gallery (2015); 'Black Georgians: The Shock of the Familiar' at the Black Cultural Archives (2016); 'Revelation of the Head' at Messums Wiltshire (2018); 'Untold Stories: A Celebration of Black People in Kent' (2018); and Royal Society of Sculptors Members' 'Summer Exhibition' (2018). There is a bronze edition and in 2017 a black and white duo edition (featured in exhibition 'OLAUDAH EQUIANO in BLACK and WHITE' at SPACE). The sculpture is now part of the permanent collection of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool and Royal Museums Greenwich.
Photos: Tontxi Vazquez / Sylvain Deleu © Christy Symington MRSS/DACS 2019
As descendants of enslaved Africans, Jacqueline and Sonia Brooks expressed their own independent responses to the bicentenary. Jacqueline designed a limited edition postcard to display the horrors of a slave ship. Sonia wrote the poem Amazing Trade, which was performed during the National Maritime Museum's programme for Slavery Remembrance Day.
The Songs of Slavery CD and booklet were produced by a community-based project, led by the Hull and East Riding branch of the Historical Association. The project was part of the Wilberforce 2007 initiative in Hull. Songs of Slavery recorded 19 songs relating to slavery, alongside six short narratives. Most of the songs date from the mid-19th century and were originally composed and sung by enslaved peoples. Some were based on religious beliefs, others also contained coded messages to aid escape and resistance. The Songs of Slavery tracks were sung or narrated by local choirs, singers and musicians, together with students from local schools and colleges.
In 2007 English Heritage (now Historic England) commissioned research into the linkages between properties in its care and transatlantic slavery, to coincide with events to commemorate the bicentenary. A report produced by historian Miranda Kaufmann identified 26 properties with some level of connection to slavery or abolition. As a result, more detailed surveys of four sites - Bolsover Castle, Brodsworth Hall, Marble Hill and Northington Grange - were commissioned in 2008, and the findings presented at the 'Slavery and the British Country House: mapping the current research' conference in 2009. The conference was organised by English Heritage in partnership with the University of the West of England, the National Trust and the Economic History Society. Findings were later published in 'Slavery and the British Country House' (2013), edited by Madge Dresser and Andrew Hann. The publication and the 2008 reports are available to download from Historic England's website.
Slavery Remembrance Day, as designated by UNESCO, took place in Liverpool on 23 August 2007. The day was commemorated with a series of events, marked first by a multi-faith act of worship at Liverpool's Parish Church of St Nicholas. A traditional African libation ceremony, calling on ancestors to bless the event, took place on the city's waterfront at Otterspool Promenade. A programme of music and drama showcased Black culture and heritage around the themes of life in Africa, the Middle Passage and the legacies of transatlantic slavery. The International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock had its official opening on the same day. The symbol of the day was the Sankofa, a mythical African bird that files forward while looking backward.
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.
The Ulster's People's College and the South Belfast Roundtable on Racism launched an exhibition to mark the bicentenary at a Northern Ireland Committee for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) conference on slavery at the Linen Hall Library in 2007. A study group of community workers from NICRAS, the Chinese Welfare Association, Black Youth Network, Donegall Pass Community Forum and the Donegall Pass Community Centre produced the exhibition which told the story of Ireland's involvement in the slave trade and its abolition. Attention was drawn to the fact that merchants in Belfast and across Ireland profited by supplying slave plantations with provisions such as beef or salted fish; some owned slave plantations. The exhibition also stressed that a growing number of campaigners often fought both for Catholic Emancipation and the Abolition of Slavery, linking the two experiences of disadvantage. The exhibition also raised the issues of contemporary slavery and racism. The exhibition toured community centres in Northern Ireland.
Eastside Community Heritage worked with young people from West Ham and Stratford to explore the significance of the bicentenary within the context of their own history in London and in British history more widely. The Road to Freedom project was devised by the young people themselves, who gathered information from the Museum of London Docklands, the National Maritime Museum, the International Slavery Museum and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Their research led to a documentary-drama and an exhibition which toured venues in Newham, accompanied by discussion sessions led by the participants.
identity on tyne is a group for writers and artists of colour in North-East England. The Roots Initiative was their response to the bicentenary, in partnership with the Literary and Philosophical Society. The writer Sheree Mack examined the region's involvement in the slave trade and the abolition movement through historical documents, creative writing and poetry. A heritage walk around Newcastle highlighted the events, individuals and places involved in the slave trade, slavery and the abolition movement in the North-East.
Plant Invasion was a family event of dance, drama, music and design, celebrating the diverse origins of food in everyday diets. The project looked at the origins of tea, and at the trade routes through Liverpool associated with sugar, coffee, tobacco, rice, cotton and enslaved peoples. The festival was organised by the Liverpool charity Hope Street Ltd, and took place at the Palm House in Liverpool's Sefton Park. Fifteen community groups prepared performances and displays based on their investigations into the journeys of non-indigenous plants and the routes they took in arriving in the UK.
The Friends of Narberth Museum presented an exhibition which examined the people, places and events in West Wales with links to the transatlantic slave trade and the campaign for abolition. Children from local schools worked with copies of documents and diaries relevant to the Narberth area, and designed their own commemorative plates. Events included a talk on the Underground Railroad and quilting, a children’s writing workshop, and a Deep South supper with music.
Easton Lodge is a historic estate in Essex, with gardens open to the public. The Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust led two projects to mark the bicentenary. Liberation Song involved three local schools working with Grand Union Orchestra to explore the roots of musical instruments and styles, culminating in a community concert. A visual arts project involving seven local schools examined the history of Easton Lodge and trading links during the 18th century. Children decorated and displayed cotton reusable carrier bags and displayed them on yew hedges in the gardens. Connections were made with the story of the 18th century Ghanaian anti-slavery campaigner Ottobah Cugoano and the modern day Fair trade movement.
An evening of presentations and music organised by Fife Workers' Educational Association, examining Fife and Scotland's role in the slave trade and abolition, and efforts to end contemporary slavery.
The Towards Understanding Slavery: Past and Present initiative by Glasgow City Council aimed to increase understanding of the human effects of the transatlantic slave trade, and explore its impact on Scotland's national heritage and Glasgow's history. A series of events, exhibitions and education programmes ran across the city throughout 2007. These included an exhibition of William Blake's works relating to the idea of slavery at the Burrell Collection, and a photographic exhibition by Graham Fagen, 'Downpresserer', at the Gallery of Modern Art, examining the cultural heritages of Scotland and Jamaica. There was a series of performances and talks at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and events at the People's Palace and Winter Gardens focused on links between Glasgow's tobacco trade and slavery through the family portrait of the 'tobacco lord' John Glassford (there is said to be a figure of a young black man behind Glassford's chair that has been deliberately obscured or painted over). A year-long programme of lectures, schools events and exhibition highlighting the life of African communities in Glasgow took place at St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art.
The official publication from the British Government in response to the bicentenary included a message from Prime Minister Tony Blair. It set out the history of transatlantic slavery and resistance to it, and featured a calendar of upcoming events for 2007 relating to slavery and abolition. The publication also detailed contemporary efforts to end modern slavery. Later in 2007, 'The way forward: bicentenary of the abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807-2007' reflected on some of the commemorative activity that had taken place in Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London and Greater Manchester. With a foreword by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the theme of the publication was 'Reflecting on the past, looking to the future' and it linked efforts for the abolition of historical and contemporary slavery. The publication also looked to how to tackle inequality and poverty in the UK, Africa and the Caribbean.
To commemorate the bicentenary of the Abolition Act, Parwich Church and the Local History Society organised a short series of events. A talk by Alasdair Duncan, 'Operation Reflex', looked at how small rural communities can help combat modern slavery. A talk by Peter Trewhitt explored local involvement links to slavery from pre-historic times through the high reliance on slave work forces in Roman and Saxon times to the influx of wealth from the exploitation of African slaves on Caribbean plantations.
An exhibition at Stockport Story Museum exploring the connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the town.
The official publication from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in association with the Northern Ireland Office, based on the research of historian Nini Rodgers.
The official publication to mark the bicentenary from One Scotland, the Scottish Executive.
The official publication produced to mark the bicentenary from the Wales Office.