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.
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.
This online exhibition and learning resource linking the history of transatlantic slavery to North East Scotland was organised by an Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Bicentenary Committee, including representatives from Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen City Council, the University of Aberdeen, the Robert Gordon University and the African and African-Caribbean communities. It followed on from a service of commemoration and a series of public lectures sponsored by the Committee in 2007. The exhibition logo is inspired by the mythical Sankofa bird, a cultural symbol of the Akan-speaking peoples of Ghana in West Africa. Featured here are a number of resources available to download from the North East Story website.
A young boy (Impongi) with a severed hand and foot, mutilated by sentries after his village failed to meet its rubber quota. He was a witness before King Leopold II's Commission of Enquiry which was an unsuccessful attempt to refute Roger Casement's damning report to the British government on human rights abuses in the Congo Free State. This image formed part of the Harris Lantern Slide Collection. Under King Leopold II the Congo Free State used mass forced labour to extract rubber from the jungle for the European market. As consumer demand grew King Leopold II's private army - the Force Publique - used violent means to coerce the population into meeting quotas, including murder, mutilation, rape, village burning, starvation and hostage taking. Alice Seeley Harris and her husband Reverend John H. Harris were missionaries in the Congo Free State from the late 1890s. Alice produced a collection of images documenting the horrific abuses of the African rubber labourers. Her photographs are considered to be an important development in the history of humanitarian campaigning. The images were used in a number of publications. The Harrises also used the photographs to develop the Congo Atrocity Lantern Lecture which toured Britain and the the USA raising awareness of the issue of colonial abuses under King Leopold II's regime. Source: Antislavery International and Panos Pictures.
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.
Aida was recruited as a child soldier by a militia group in the Philippines at the age of 14 and then prevented from leaving. She was engaged in armed conflict for six months, one of hundreds of thousands of children who participate in armies and armed groups in more than 30 countries around the world. The problem is most critical in Africa, where up to 100,000 children are estimated to be involved in armed conflict. Child soldiers also exist in Afghanistan, Burma, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, though international law sets 18 as the minimum age for all participation in hostilities. In the Philippines, where three major insurgent groups have fought the Philippine military since the 1960s, there are an estimated 2000 child soldiers. The Communist-oriented New People’s Army, established in 1968, began an intense recruitment of children in the 1990s. By 2000, some 25 percent of new recruits were children, and more than ten percent of its regular combatants are now under 18. Parents volunteer children to serve as combatants and camp guards. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front allows the training of children as young as 12. Parents volunteer their children, seeing it as an observation of Islamic teaching, and Muslim youth organizations recruit students from schools and colleges. The Abu Sayyaf (“Bearer of the Sword”), a Muslim separatist group which appeared in the late 1980s, uses Islamic religion to draw minors into the movement, for use as combatants, human shields, and hostages.
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.
Bath Preservation Trust curated a series of exhibitions across five of their sites, with a focus on ‘unlocking the legacies of the slave trade'. Beckford’s Tower & Museum hosted Big Spenders: The Beckfords and Slavery; displays here and at the Holburne Museum were designed to explore the Beckford family connections to plantations in Jamaica, through objects, paintings and furniture. The Herschel Museum's Slaves to Fashion exhibition, and Number 1 Royal Crescent's Elegance and Exploitation trail looked at how involvement with the slave trade enhanced the luxury of 18th century life in Bath. At the Building of Bath Museum, Selina’s Web revealed the complex attitudes of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who sought to promote the publications of free slaves whilst also being a slave owner. A lecture series ran alongside these exhibitions.
The Bittersweet programme by the Gateway Gardens Trust involved 80 free guided garden visits over two years, around more than 30 gardens in Wales with a range of community groups, schoolchildren and lifelong learners. The themes of the visits and a mobile exhibition were the links between the slave trade and historic gardens, their makers, what they planted, Welsh abolitionists and the wider links with local communities in Wales. Historic gardens provided the starting point, looking at how everyday vegetables and fruits - beans, potatoes, tomatoes etc. - first reached the UK from the Americas. The project also looked at the history of afternoon tea, and the links between sugar, cotton and tea and slavery. The groups reflected on how many industries, grand houses and gardens were built from wealth linked to slavery, such as Cyfarthfa Ironworks in Merthyr and the expansion of the slate industry at Penrhyn Quarry. Early 18th century-style newspapers were produced, aimed at schoolchildren and adults.
Gardens involved included Cardiff’s Bute Park, Swansea’s Singleton Park, the National Botanic Garden in Carmarthen, Gwydir Castle in Llanrwst, Dyffryn Gardens, Portmeirion, Penrhyn Castle, Picton Castle, Dinefwr Park and Castle and Aberglasney Gardens.
This haunting exhibition documented the exploitation and brutality experienced by Congolese people under the control of Leopold II of Belgium in the 1900s. The photographs, by missionary Alice Seeley Harris, were at the time a radical and significant shift in the representation and understanding of the impact of colonial violence in the Congo, and exposed the deep-rooted hypocrisy of so called 'colonial benevolence' which cost the lives of millions of Congolese. The campaign led to public pressure and international scrutiny of Leopold’s administration, which came to an end in 1909.
The legacy of Belgian violence and exploitation would tragically re-emerge years later after the Congo gained independence in 1960, with the murder of the country’s first legally elected Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba.
European exploitation of the Congolese people and resources has shaped the country's recent history and the effects are still evident today.
This exhibition was developed in partnership with Autograph ABP and Anti-Slavery International.
Bury Archives and Museum collaborated on an exhibition based on the journals, letters and other papers of John Hutchinson. The Hutchinson family's cotton spinning business had links to slavery in the United States: in 1848, John Hutchinson travelled to America to buy cotton produced by slaves. The exhibition at Bury Art Gallery featured archives, museum objects and paintings that put the papers into a social context. Cotton Threads went on tour to branch libraries, where talks and family workshops explored family histories and the cotton business. Volunteers assisted in conserving, cataloguing and digitising the Hutchinson papers, which were made available online. Primary school pupils took part in workshops held in the exhibition and a resource pack for secondary schools was produced with local teachers (available to download from the Cotton Threads website).
An exhibition exploring the connections between the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway and the transatlantic slave trade toured Dumfries Museum, the Stewartry Museum in Kirkcudbright and Stranraer Museum. At each venue, the exhibition was accompanied by displays of material and a lecture. The catalogue of new research to supplement the exhibition by Frances Wilkins set out to correct misunderstandings about the role of people from the region in the transatlantic slave trade, to prove a history of connections independent of Glasgow or anywhere else. Evidence suggests that men from smaller towns such as Dumfries and Kirkcudbright were involved in the transatlantic slave trade as merchants, slave traders or plantation owners. For example, in the late 18th century, plantation supplies were sent from Kirkcudbright to the island of Grenada; the vessels returned with rum, sugar, and cotton wool.
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.
Gentlemen Slavers was a project to explore the connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the London Borough of Sutton, particularly through the activities of one family – the Taylors of St Kitts. George Taylor, and later his brother John, lived on the Carshalton Park estate, funded by a family fortune made on slave-worked sugar plantations on the islands of St Kitts and Nevis. The project also looked in detail at the story of Samuel Mudian, a black man who worked at Carshalton Park as a butler for George Taylor, and likely a native of St Kitts. The project consisted of an exhibition, booklet, education pack and activity sheets.
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.
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.
As part of a newly developed Learning Programme, leaflets were produced setting out the family connections to Barbados. 2007 also marked the bicentenary of the Yorkshire election in 1807 contested by William Wilberforce, Henry Lascelles (later 2nd Earl of Harewood) and Lord Milton. Competition between the candidates was fierce, based on issues such as Catholic Emancipation, poverty, workers' rights and abolition of the slave trade.
The Hidden Connections exhibition was a result of partnership between the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) and the Linen Hall Library in Belfast. The exhibition explored Ulster's links with slavery after 1807 via people, events and places, and looked at both the pro and anti-slavery debates in Northern Ireland. It drew on documents from PRONI’s archives, artefacts from the Ulster Museum and contemporary books and pamphlets from the Linen Hall Library and elsewhere. After its launch at Linen Hall Library, the exhibition toured Northern Ireland, travelling to Down Museum, the Harbour Museum in Derry, Lisburn City Library and the Ulster American Folk Park.
The wider Hidden Connections programme featured workshops exploring archival sources, performances and lectures by leading scholars. There was a panel discussion on ‘Slavery Now’, a walking tour of Belfast sites associated with the slavery issue, and a boat trip on the Lagan focusing on the port’s links with slave colonies. Gerry McLaughlin’s ‘Blood sugar’ is a drama documentary devoted to the literature of slavery, music and song. 'Freedom and Liberty' was the theme of the UK-wide Archives Awareness Event. PRONI organised special events and produced a catalogue, 'Ulster and Slavery', listing the references to slavery to be found in the archive.
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.
A bust of Sir Henry Tate, one of the most prominent philanthropists of the 19th century, is displayed on a plinth in Brixton. A group of young men from the ORIGIN Rites of Passage Programme produced a documentary to investigate Tate's legacy and, in particular, the tensions inherent in his acts of generosity being funded by wealth derived from sugar production. The documentary featured interviews, research, and trips to Tate & Lyle plants and buildings. New Initiatives, a youth and community association, developed ORIGIN as an Africentric rites of passage programme, to support young men of African descent in their transition to adulthood. The project, exhibition and DVD was launched at Brixton Tate Library in October 2010.
During the Industrial Revolution Nottingham was famous for the manufacture of lace. In 2007 British-Ghanaian artist Godfried Donkor, supported by The New Art Exchange and the Centre for Contemporary Art in the city, investigated the often-neglected connections between this luxurious commodity and the cotton picked by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean and American South. The research culminated in an exhibition, ‘Once Upon a Time in the West There Was Lace’, at the Yard Gallery at Wollaton Hall in early 2008. The Elizabethan manor is also home to the Industrial Museum which holds lace-making machinery. A key part of the display were outfits created from brightly coloured lace, now a prized material in West Africa. Donkor's paintings on pages of the Financial Times represented people, culture and goods crossing the Atlantic in different eras. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of public events which looked at the links between the city’s past lace-making industry and slavery, including lectures and a free symposium.