The National Maritime Museum marked the bicentenary with a range of initiatives and events including a new exhibition, a film season, poetry, music, debates, and new publications. A new permanent gallery opened at the museum in winter 2007 exploring Britain's Atlantic empire. A catalogue of slavery-related images, artefacts and documents from the collections of the museum, 'Representing Slavery', was published. The museum also devised a transatlantic slavery trail around Greenwich.
The National Maritime Museum hosted a number of events throughout 2007. The theme of the weekend 23-25 March was 'And still I rise', marked with a series of activities, performances and discussion. On August 23, International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, the ‘Freedom Festival: Contemporary Commemoration’ event saw a programme of creative events and performances exploring themes around the heritage of enslavement. The museum also offered a range of learning experiences based on its collections. For example, in November, a study session, 'Roots of Resistance: Abolition 1807' examined the roots of resistance and the abolition movement through talks by curators and contemporary artists. Activities for families were based on themes of freedom and carnival. 'The Big Conversation 2007' was a programme of debate and showcasing of diverse projects undertaken by students around the country, organised by the Understanding Slavery Initiative and the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Remembering Slavery: A Musical Journey was a performance at Luton's summer festival in July 2007. Young people told the story of slavery through music from Africa to the Caribbean to South America.
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.
A bicentenary service in commemoration of William Wilberforce and the passing of the 200th anniversary of the Abolition Act took place in February 2007 at York Minster. The service featured Pocklington School Choir, Transglobal Drummers and the Riding Lights Theatre Company (performing extracts of the play African Snow). Organisations associated with the service included Churches Together in England and the Set All Free project, and the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull
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.
The Sounds of Slavery was a project by the performance and visual arts group River Niger Arts to research, record and develop a performance-related programme around the musical heritage and legacy of slavery. The project took particular interest in these themes in relation to the City of Liverpool, but also addressed them in global terms. The project created a database of songs and narratives from the period of slavery. Members of the River Niger Orchestra also performed at a Sounds of Slavery performance at Liverpool Hope University. Some of the songs performed included 'The Chase', 'No More Auction Block' and the African American spiritual 'The Jubilee Song'. The project was accompanied by a series of performance and visual arts education workshops with schools.
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.
In Autumn 2007, the opera 'The Woman Who Refused To Dance' by composer and conductor Shirley J Thompson was performed at Westminster Palace, Houses of Parliament. The piece was based on a 1792 print by Isaac Cruickshank - entitled 'The abolition of the slave trade, or the inhumanity of dealers in human flesh exemplified in the cruel treatment of a young negro girl of 15 for her virgin modesty' - depicting a woman who refused to dance on board a slave ship, and who was hung from one leg as punishment. The opera has recently been re-premiered to mark the 210th anniversary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.
In 1947, 70 years ago, the public discovered one of the first sound recordings of Pygmy music collected in Equatorial Africa by the French ethnomusicologist Gilbert Rouget.
These were recorded during the Ogooué-Congo Mission, a scientific expedition led by the 23-year old French ethnologist Noël Ballif. This mission was the first organised by the Liotard group, a collective of young French explorers from Paris’ Musée de l’Homme.
From July to December 1946, the 12 members of the expedition travelled across the former Middle Congo (the current Republic of the Congo) and Gabon. They spent six weeks completely immersed in Bambinga Pygmy tribes from the Haute Sangha region, in the North of Moyen Congo - an experience that turned out to be decisive for some of them.
Whether they are sound recordings, photographs, films, artifacts or scientific studies, the documents collected and produced during and after the Ogooué-Congo Mission allow us to discover their adventure.
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.
Solms Delta is a wine estate, situated east of Cape Town in the heart of the Cape Winelands. It was founded as Zandvleit in 1690, with the name change coming in 2002 after purchase by University of Cape Town-based neurosurgeon Mark Solms who wished to distinguish it from other farms with the same name. As with the majority of South African wine farms of a similar age, its early labour force rested on enslavement. Solms approach to farm ownership has seen him attempt to eschew the well-worn white owner/black worker relationship by launching a socio-economic reform project. Money has been invested in new housing featuring satellite television, whilst an education project both for workers and their children has been established. Social enrichment activities based around music, sports, and performance have been encouraged in an attempt to improve the traditionally poor socio-economic circumstances of the workers, many of whom live on the estate just as their ancestors did. Solms has explained in interviews that this refreshed approach to wine farming arises from a perceived responsibility to acknowledge his own life privileges as a white South African. Crucially, workers have been given shares in a land equity scheme.
Solms Delta hosts two museums. One of these, named Museum van de Caab with deference to Cape slave naming patterns, opened at the same time as the estate opened to the public in 2005, with a music museum opening in 2014. Acknowledgement of the past as a means of understanding how workers have been exploited over time is a crucial part of Solms’ project. Slavery is referenced in both museums, with songs as evidence of slave culture appearing in the music museum. In Museum van de Caab it forms a fundamental part of a general farm history which traces the story of the land to the origins of humankind. A memorial feature occupies a prominent position in one of two galleries, detailing the names of every person revealed by archival research to have been enslaved on the estate. Guided museum and estate tours are available, conducted by estate workers.