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.
The Freedom! sculpture was created by a group of Haitian artists to represent Haiti's struggle for freedom and human rights. It was commissioned in 2007 by a collaboration of the international development charity Christian Aid and National Museums Liverpool to mark the bicentenary. The Freedom! sculpture is made from recycled objects such as metal car parts and junk found in the slums of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince. It was created by sculptors Eugène, Céleur and Guyodo from Atis Rezistans in collaboration with the Haitian artist Mario Benjamin. The sculpture was first displayed at the Merseyside Maritime Museum in 2007 before touring to Stratford Circus Arts Centre in London, the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol and the Eden Project in Cornwall. It became a permanent exhibit in the International Slavery Museum when the venue opened on 23 August 2007 (Slavery Remembrance Day).
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 a solo '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); Royal Society of Sculptors Members' 'Summer Exhibition' (2018); and Salon d'Automne Paris (2019). 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 bronze sculpture is now in the permanent collections of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool (2017), Royal Museums Greenwich (2018) and Parliament UK (2019).
Photos: Tontxi Vazquez / Sylvain Deleu © Christy Symington MRSS/DACS 2019
Widely claimed to be the first museum in America to solely address slavery, the Whitney Plantation is a plantation estate, museum and memorial outside New Orleans, on Louisiana's famed River Road. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the plantation was home to the Haydel family, and their enslaved workers. The site was bought in 2000 by a retired lawyer, John Cummings, who funded the renovation and redevelopment of the site, which opened to the public as a museum in 2014. On arrival, visitors must join a guided tour to see the majority of the site, but the museum is open to all.
On the property visitors will find a range of exhibits, including the Mansion House, slave quarters, a blacksmith's shop and a Baptist church. There is also a 'Wall of Honour' which features the names of all those enslaved at the plantation, as taken from the site's archives. In addition, there is a sculpture installation created by American artist Woodrow Nash called 'The Children of Whitney,' that seeks to remind visitors that slavery affected children as well as adults.
The site houses a significant collection of artefacts too. These range from plantation tools and house furniture. There is even the largest collection of sugar kettles in the whole of Louisiana. Much of this collection has been purchased at auctions around the USA, in a bid to redisplay the site as it was during the antebellum period. There are three archaeological sites which also contribute collections of material linked to the lives of the enslaved themselves. All of this provides visitors with a unique perspective of plantation life, and helps to break down the ignorance still surrounding histories of American enslavement.
The Freedom Sculpture was conceived by Mary Thompson, a teacher at Dog Kennel Hill Primary School in East Dulwich, as a way for the school to mark the bicentenary. Year 6 pupils worked with Kevin Boys, a blacksmith from Surrey Docks City Farm, to translate their ideas of freedom into a visual image. A butterfly was chosen to represent the concept of freedom. Kevin Boys made the butterfly's wings on a mobile forge in the school playground, and Year 5 children designed patterns to place inside. The Freedom Sculpture was opened in the school grounds in November 2008 by Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty, the civil liberties advocacy group.
The sculpture Blue Earth 1807-2007 by African artist Taslim Martin was permanently installed in the newly updated African Worlds Gallery at the Horniman Museum in 2007, to mark the bicentenary. The large iron globe, inscribed with the 18th century image of the slave ship Brookes, traces the routes along which enslaved Africans were transported to the New World, alongside the movement of the products of enslaved labour. The major British ports of Liverpool, London and Bristol are depicted, as well as ports in West Africa and some of the destination ports in North America, the Caribbean and South America. Visitors are encouraged to spin the globe to view slave routes across the world. In 2007-2008, the Horniman Museum also hosted 'La Bouche du Roi' by Romuald Hazoumé.
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.
The Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons holds the human and comparative anatomy collections of the surgeon John Hunter (1728-1793). The Exhibiting Difference project was the Hunterian Museum’s contribution to the bicentenary, exploring the history of the transatlantic slave trade through the history of medicine and the experiences of those who lived on the margins of society. Exhibiting Difference focused on the hidden histories of Black Africans living with skin pigmentation conditions in the 18th and 19th centuries, and thus explored issues of identity, self-image and cultural distinctiveness. Curated by Temi Odumosu, the exhibition ‘A Visible Difference: skin, race and identity 1720-1820’ was opened at the Hunterian Museum, featuring portraits of Black African slave children, Mary Sabina and George Alexander Gratton, who both had the skin pigmentation condition piebaldism. The museum also worked with over 200 secondary school students and four professional artists to create a display of sculpture, painting, collage, photography, film and sound recording reflecting the themes of the project. Learning resources were produced to support citizenship education.
Bluecoat Display Centre is a contemporary craft and design gallery in Liverpool. The 200 Years: Slavery Now exhibition aimed to draw attention to modern slavery, both within the UK and in the wider international context. It brought together ten artists whose work reflected these concerns, and who were committed to highlighting the existence of slavery today through the creation of artefacts and the development of personal narratives. Materials used included ceramics, mixed media installations and textiles. Some of the themes covered included the exploitation of migrant workers, sex trafficking, 'sweat shop' mass production, and commemorating the Middle Passage and the workers of Manchester's cotton mills. The exhibition was curated by Professor Stephen Dixon, with the support of the Craft and Design Research Centre, MIRIAD, at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Nottingham Castle Museum held two exhibitions in 2007. Inspired by the anti-slavery medallion produced by Josiah Wedgwood in the 1790s, a group of young people from Nottingham’s African Caribbean community worked with artist Katherine Morling to explore issues surrounding slavery and the representation of black people in art. The group worked under the name Sankofa. The ceramic Globe of Freedom was fired at the Wedgwood factory in Staffordshire, and was displayed at Nottingham Castle Museum alongside the Wedgwood medallion. The word ‘FREEDOM’ is impressed on one side and ‘EQUALITY’ impressed on the other. A replica sculpture is still used as part of a handling collection loaned to schools and community groups in the Nottingham region. A second exhibition, in collaboration with the Open University in the East Midlands, looked at the British slave trade using slave narratives, telling the story of three survivors of slavery: Mary Prince, Robert Wedderburn and Quobna Ottobah Cugoano.
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.
The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) was one of eight heritage bodies in the ‘Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery’ partnership in Greater Manchester. The project set out to explore the history, impact and legacy of slavery on Britain through collections and community links in the North West.
An exhibition and trail at MOSI explored the connections between Manchester’s economic success from the late eighteenth century onwards and its international trade, particularly the cotton trade with the USA, with its associated links to the transatlantic slave trade. Items identified in the collection included an American Civil War patriotic envelope from 1861, which satirised Britain's willingness to ignore the plight of American slaves. Other events included the creation of a series of terracotta figures depicting slaves on a slave ship by artist Annette Cobley. Workshop sessions to accompany this artwork were based on the theme of silence surrounding slavery.