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.
The Remembering Slavery exhibition focused on objects, paintings, documents and other historical material relating to the transatlantic slave trade and its legacy. The exhibition and associated programme of activities opened at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle and then toured to South Shields Museum and Art Gallery; Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens; and the Laing Art Gallery. Whilst at the Discovery Museum, the historical exhibition was accompanied by a photographic exhibition, ‘Human Traffic’, produced by Anti-Slavery International, documenting the trafficking of children in Benin and Gabon in West Africa. Whilst at the Laing Art Gallery, the exhibition was shown alongside ‘La Bouche du Roi’ by Romauld Hazoumé, a contemporary installation based on the ‘Brookes’ slave ship.
An exhibition to mark the bicentenary was developed by Enfield Museum Service in partnership with the British Museum and Enfield Racial Equality Council. The exhibition looked at West African culture, the development of the local African community, the links between the transatlantic slave trade and Enfield, wealthy landowners and Quaker abolitionists who lived in the area. Free family days held during school vacations offered traditional Ghanaian story-telling, dancing and drumming, crafts and object handling. Living History Days gave visitors the opportunity to meet actors portraying William Wilberforce and Olaudah Equiano. School workshops included a drama session and performance about a runaway slave developed from material from Lambeth Archive. The museum service also produced a book, edited by Valerie Munday, which explored further the links between Enfield and the slave trade. The book was sent to all schools in the borough, and formed the basis of a teaching resource aimed at Key Stages 2 and 3. Loan boxes and handling collections provided by the museum service include Ghanaian artefacts and items relating to the slave trade. In 2011, Enfield Racial Equality Council unveiled a plaque to commemorate abolition at the Enfield Civic Centre.
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.
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.
Le musée d'histoire de Ouidah (The Ouidah Museum of History) is located within the Old Portuguese Fort in Ouidah. The Fort was used to contain and transport enslaved Africans as part of the transatlantic slave trade, serving as the site for diplomatic presence of Portugal in the area. The fort became property of the Dahomean government in 1961, when it was restored and turned into a museum, opening in 1967. It is managed by the Department of Cultural Patrimony.
The museum's collections are grouped into six major exhibit themes: the Portuguese Fort (in which the museum resides), the Kingdom of Xwéda, the Kingdom of Dahomey, the Slave Trade, Vodun, and the cultural links between Benin and the New World. These collections are made up of artefacts, photographs and objects that have significant meaning to the history and culture of the museum's local area.
The history of slavery runs throughout the displays; from the Portuguese Fort display which discusses how enslaved Africans were kept there. The displays that explore the kingdoms of Xwéda and Dahomey use collections to emphasise the extent to which both of them were dependent on the trade in enslaved individuals with Europeans for riches and power. These include a range of archaeological finds, as well as engravings and drawings. The exhibition about the religious traditions of the area, in particular the development of Voodoo, reflects on the continued use of African religions by enslaved people in the Americas during the period of the transatlantic slave trade, using religious artefacts. A range of images and objects showcase the impact that people from Benin made on the cultures of New World societies, as well as the effects of mass repatriation to Benin after the decline of the slave trade.
The Slave Trade exhibits examine the system of transatlantic slavery from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century and how it impacted on the local area. The main focus is on the economic and social processes that the slave trade created in Benin, capture, enslavement and the Middle Passage. These themes are illustrated with a range of objects, artists' renditions and archival materials. Examples of objects on display include chains and yokes. Images are also used to give some information about the plantation system in the Americas and Caribbean.