Ink and blood: Stories of abolition opens 

Special exhibition for 10 years of the International Slavery Museum

OLAUDAH EQUIANO

The International Slavery Museum in Liverpool is revealing the first of its major 10th anniversary events with the opening of a brand new exhibition, Ink and blood: Stories of abolition, on Monday 21 August.

The anniversary exhibition will explore abolition (the ending of slavery) and reveal the lives, losses, and triumphs of the people it affected in the 18th and 19th centuries and their later freedom.

Ink and blood: Stories of abolition will show abolition up close through ink (paper) and blood (people), revealing personal stories from Argentina, Cuba, Jamaica, the United States and Bahrain, through powerful modern creative responses to abolition, significant historical documents and rare objects.

The International Slavery Museum is the only museum in the world to look at the Transatlantic Slave Trade and modern slavery. It opened on 23 August  2007  the bicentenary year of the abolition of the British slave trade, and the annual date of Slavery Remembrance Day.

Dr Richard Benjamin, Head of the International Slavery Museum said: The opening of this exhibition, which looks at the human face of abolition, is a great reminder of the Museums roots, opening on the Bicentenary of An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, an important moment in the history of slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

Highlights of Ink and Blood include a newly acquired sculpture of Olaudah Equiano entitled OLAUDAH EQUIANO – African, slave, author, abolitionist by London sculptor Christy Symington; an artwork called UK Diaspora by Black British artist Kimathi Donkor, and a plantation stock book for Roslin Castle estate, which has never been on display before – a crucial and touching book of accounts with key information about life on a Jamaican plantation. Â

Jean Francois Manicom, Curator, International Slavery Museum, said: For me this exhibition is the perfect time to bring personal adventures and stories back into Official History. Just a few grams of paper but millions of human lives and shattered destinies: Ink and Blood.

  • OLAUDAH EQUIANO – African, slave, author, abolitionist by Christy Symington MRBS

Writer and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano (1745-97) was considered highly influential in ending the African slave trade for Britain and its colonies, through his campaigning and autobiography of 1789 entitled ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African’.

Kidnapped from his African village when he was just a child, Equiano was enslaved and taken to the West Indies where he experienced terrible abuse and suffering. Eventually, he managed to buy his own freedom and reached England, where he took an active part in campaigning to end the British slave trade.

Sculptor Christy Symington MRBS responded to this narrative, saying: When I learnt of Equiano and his huge significance in UK history, I was shocked to discover that, like me, many people I spoke to had also not heard of him and I wanted to share his story. It was leading up to the 2007 Bicentenary commemorations of the Act to end slavery in Britain, so I made this sculpture to give physical presence to his life.

The sculpture reflects Equianos social standing through his clothing and hairstyle which was unusual for a Black man in that period and the continent of Africa is implied by the shape of the back of his shoulders. Broken shackles and chains are sculpted around the base of the sculpture, prompting his opposition to slavery. Imprints of 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.

My focus on making sculptures of people hidden in our history is to bring their presence into our lives. After a decade of journeys to exhibitions in the UK and overseas, I hope that the sculpture being on display in the context of the 10th anniversary of the International Slavery Museum, encourages more people to learn about Equianos life.

UK Diaspora by Kimathi Donkor

UK Diaspora is a mixed-media artwork by Black British artist Kimathi Donkor, which includes ten vibrant collages of objects and images symbolising British involvement in transatlantic slavery. Arranged like a map of Great Britain, it includes portraits of famous participants in the Transatlantic Slave Trade and imagery from the artist’s visit to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.

Kimathi Donkor said: In 2007, as we remembered Parliaments abolition of the UK slave trade, I wondered if glamourous movies about Queen Elizabeth I, or portraits of George Washington on the dollar bill, made us forget how they and others masterminded slavery? As a person of both African and Jewish heritage, I wondered what Id think if Germany tried to put Hitler on the Euro? So, in UK Diaspora, alongside Washingtons portrait, Ive included things like his call for help in recapturing those who escaped his private slave-labour camp (which, at first, was part of Britain’s empire). My intention with these unusual juxtapositions is to question how historic images and institutions shape the perceptions of contemporary society.

Kimathi Donkor will give a free talk on his UK Diaspora artwork on 23 August at 1pm at the International Slavery Museum, followed by a Q and A session. More information available at: www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ukdiaspora

  • Plantation Stock Book for Roslin Castle Estate

From 1791 to 1813, the owner of the Roslin Castle Estate plantation meticulously did his accounting. Year after year, he wrote down the births, the deaths, the purchase and sales of his slaves, exactly as he did for his cattle.

Jean Francois Manicom, Curator, International Slavery Museum said: “Beyond the coldness of the accounting style, this book is also a window opened onto the lives of Mary, John or Peter; it allows us to grasp, even fleetingly, the lives of those men, women and children deprived of their identity and treated without any human dignity. It gives us a sense of the hope that animated those people who would, a few years later, become the people of Jamaica.”

The International Slavery Museum highlights the international importance of enslavement and slavery, both in a historic and modern context. Working in partnership with other organisations with a focus on freedom and enslavement, the Museum also provides opportunities for greater awareness and understanding of the legacies of slavery today. Since opening its doors in 2007, the International Slavery Museum has welcomed over four million visitors including 279,119  schoolchildren. The Museum has a year-round programme of free events, talks and exhibitions.

In 2017, special events have been organised for the anniversary year, including Liverpools annual Slavery Remembrance Day commemorations. For further details, please visit http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/events/10th-anniversary-listings.aspx #ISM10years and www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/srd and #srdliverpool

Ink and blood: Stories of abolition has been supported by the Parliamentary Archives, Archives Nationales d’outre-Mer, the New York Historical Society, Anti-Slavery International Archives, the Heritage Lottery Fund Collecting Cultures programme, and the private collection of Jean-Francois Manicom. For more information see www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/inkandblood and #inkandblood.

OLAUDAH EQUIANO – African, slave, author, abolitionist and UK Diaspora are acquisitions through funding from the Transatlantic and Contemporary Slavery Collecting Project, part of the Heritage Lottery Funds Collecting Cultures programme.

 

 

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