Artists, cultural leaders and city mayors have called for a national museum to be established to document Britain’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade and its racist legacy.
The Black Lives Matters protests and the toppling of the slaver Edward Colston’s Bristol statue have fueled demands that Britain face up to the horrors of its past in order to combat contemporary racism. A museum educating people about the country’s role in the slave trade is seen as one way of helping to do that.
Hartwig Fischer, head of the British Museum, which features many looted treasures from the country’s colonial past in its collections, said that it’s a good idea in principle.
“What kind of museum? I think that needs to be debated within the communities. That will be a very important process to find a consensus. To find a way together to define what that museum should be. Take the country where I come from [Germany], where the memorials there are places of information: museums that talk about the Holocaust, places that highlight Jewish life. You have all these all these different places that allow you to to concentrate on that history, to engage with it, to understand its meaning and the injustice, pain and trauma inflicted. That should be the role of such an institution.”
Fischer said such a museum could include everything from great artworks to “very humble objects” along with documents and photographs. He suggested a broader remit, similar to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, which highlights the “extraordinary contributions” of African Americans alongside an exhibition documenting the horrors of slavery.
The novelist and poet Ben Okri also made reference to the Washington museum.
“That deals comprehensively with slavery and it’s amazing and very, very helpful for black people and white people just to understand how the world got to where it is. It’s overdue [in the UK] and it’s important for the enlightenment of future generations.”
Both Okri and the sculptor Anish Kapoor, like Fischer, compared the situation in Britain to the commemoration of the Holocaust in Germany.
“Whatever else, at least there’s an acceptance [in Germany],” said Kapoor. “Twelve million people were taken from Africa over the course of slavery, but there’s no monument. How can it be?”
The three most important British ports in the slave trade — London, Bristol and Liverpool — all grew extremely wealthy on the back of it.
The economy also benefited hugely from Caribbean sugar, grown on slave plantations in Britain’s colonies.
Yinka Shonibare, the British-Nigerian artist whose work has featured on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, said: “A national slavery museum is imperative if we are to have a deeper understanding of our wealth as a nation and atone for the sins of our ancestors. We owe it to the next generation, we must lead the tide of social justice and equality for all. A slavery museum in the United Kingdom will be cathartic for our deeply wounded community.”
The Fabian Society and the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, called last year for a national slavery museum based in the capital and the current protests have given the idea greater impetus.
“As we rightly question the levels of racism and discrimination in our society and the people that we publicly celebrate in our streets, the need for a dedicated slavery museum or memorial in London grows,” said Khan.
Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands mayor, called a museum a “practical solution” to acknowledge what was wrong with British history. The Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees, said it would have to take into account that “the relationship between the UK and the African heritage people is more than slavery.”
There is an International Slavery Museum in Liverpool within the Merseyside Maritime Museum building, but many feel that the scale of the atrocity merits a museum on a par with other major institutions.
Fatos Ustek, director of Liverpool Biennial, the UK’s largest festival of visual contemporary art, said it would be a good start, but more was needed.
“We have to do more than containing this history in a museum,” she said. “Knowledge is produced through active participation and filtering of information. This initiative should be supported by a nationwide history program, in the public and private sphere, and with an integrated curriculum throughout education.”
It can take ice cream maker Miky Wu (吳書瑀) months to create a new flavor. In addition to using only eco-friendly and organic ingredients, her brand 1982 de glacee also eschews artificial additives, replacing emulsifiers and stabilizers with Taiwanese rice and wood ear derivatives. Wu’s non-traditional methods and dedication to capturing the essence of the main ingredient can lead to hours and hours tinkering in her “research office” in Tainan, even referencing academic papers to get the science correct. Her efforts were recently recognized for the third year in a row by the prestigious A. A. Taste Awards run by the
June 29 to July 5 With women gathering rocks and men hurling them at thousands of rivaling neighbors, ritualistic stone battles were regular affairs for people living in Pingtung during the 1800s. Direct combat and use of weapons were prohibited to avoid serious injury, with the losers hosting the winners for dinner. These “guests” often acted rudely, and faced no repercussions for smashing windows or snatching their hosts’ possessions. These battles usually took place yearly, with a significant number happening every Dragon Boat Festival. The winners had rights to the losers’ banquet prepared for the festivities. Sometimes things would get out of
Certain historical statues have been disappearing in Thailand, but they are not effigies of colonialists or slave owners torn down by protesters. Instead, Thailand’s vanishing monuments celebrated leaders of the 1932 revolution that ended absolute monarchy in Thailand, who were once officially honored as national heroes and symbols of democracy. Reuters has identified at least six sites memorializing the People’s Party that led the revolution which have been removed or renamed in the past year. In most cases it is not known who took the statues down, although a military official said one was removed for new landscaping. Two army camps named after 1932
Jason Ward fell in love with birds at age 14 when he spotted a peregrine falcon outside the homeless shelter where he was staying with his family. The now 33-year-old Atlanta bird lover parlayed that passion into a YouTube series last year. One of the guests on his first episode of Birds of North America was Christian Cooper, a black bird watcher who was targeted in New York City’s Central Park by a white woman after he told her to leash her dog. A video capturing the encounter showed the woman, Amy Cooper (no relation), retaliate by calling the police