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Vote for us!

13 December 2018 by Sarah

Our ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ painting has been shortlisted for Art Fund Wok of the Year 2018. Shown here as it was acquired, and before conservation work. Image courtesy of National Museums Liverpool.

Fantastic news! Our new painting ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ at the International Slavery Museum is on the shortlist of 10 works to be Art Fund Work of the Year 2018.

The annual poll aims to find the public’s favourite Art Funded work of the year, and to celebrate a year of helping museums and galleries acquire great art. You can help and support us by voting!

‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’ is a significant acquisition for the Museum- and the UK.

It is the first painting in our collection to show the powerful and resonant iconography of abolition. The artwork dates from around 1800 and the artist is unknown. The foot of the canvas reads, ‘Am Not I a Man and a Brother’, a variation on the more common version, ‘Am I Not a Man and a Brother’.

The painting’s dominant motif is that of an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and set against the backdrop of a Caribbean sugar plantation. This is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade on 5 July 1787, which is considered to be one of the first instances of a symbol designed for a political cause and was used famously by the potter Josiah Wedgwood.

It is only the second known painting to exist featuring this motif – the only other being ‘The Kneeling Slave’ at the Wilberforce House Museum in Hull.

The painting is currently undergoing cleaning and restoration. Here you can see Senior Painting Conservator, David Crombie starting off that process.

As the abolitionist movement gained popular support, the motif was widely used for decorating men’s snuff boxes, ladies’ bracelets and hair pins, as well as household objects including milk jugs, sugar bowls and tobacco boxes.

Further enslaved people raise axes to the sugar cane in the background of the painting.

Curator Stephen Carl-Lokko, who made the acquisition, said:

“We’re so pleased to have been shortlisted for Art Fund Work of the Year 2018.

“This is a significant acquisition for the UK. While the image became an important symbol of the abolitionist movement, it also touches on the historical representation of enslaved Africans.

Look at the top left of the painting: you can already see how different it’s going to look after conservation. The painting is expected to go on display at the International Slavery Museum in Spring 2019.

“Although the image was designed to appeal to the sympathies of the British public in identifying with the cause of abolition, it also reflects the misconception of enslaved Africans as passive acceptors of their fate.

“In fact the opposite was true, enslaved Africans were the main instigators in their fight for freedom, with Black abolitionists such as Olaudah Equiano, Ottobah Cugoano and Mary Prince actively campaigning as part of the British abolitionist movement.

“We address this and put this into context for our modern audience and hopefully we can start a discussion with our visitors when they see this painting about the historical representation of Black people within art.”

The acquisition was made possible through a generous grant award by the Art Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Collecting Cultures programme.

All those who vote for their favourite artwork will be entered into a free prize draw, with the chance of winning a lifetime National Art Pass worth £1,850. Vote here for your favourite in the shortlist until 5pm on Saturday 15 December 2018.

 

UK’s 2nd Female BAME Stunt Actor : Shaina West aka The Samurider

12 December 2018 by Sarah

Images courtesy of Shaina West

Shaina West is a real life superhero, with a backstory to rival an Avenger and an alter ego fighting to change the stigma around Black women on screen. In this guest blog, Shaina explains how she overcame the adversity of a road accident to reinvent herself as a pioneering stunt actor and the anime-inspired Instagram star: The Samurider:

“The choice to become a stunt actor was not a particularly hard one, I feel like through minimal shaping of my own, my life led me towards it – it’s been an incredible ride! It all started when I was 20 and the unthinkable happened. I was in a terrible motorbike accident. It left me stranded in hospital for weeks with a fractured neck and broken thumb. My boyfriend of the time broke up with me and I lost my job. A series of unfortunate events indeed!

“All that I was left with was a passion for Japanese culture including anime. I spent all of my time with these strong characters who could perform amazing feats and solve their problems through the physical actions of their bodies, I was inspired. I got out of my casts and back into the gym, and on my 21st birthday I got a tattoo which would remind me to be strong, do what I love and fight for what I believe in. It was from that day that I decided to teach myself martial arts and, in spirit, be like the anime characters that made me want to feel… heroic. And thus, ‘The Samurider’ was born.

Images courtesy of Shaina West

“Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work; I didn’t learn any of the complex and physically demanding moves overnight. Weapon usage, again took immense research and practice just to work out which was the pointy end and which the handle! But hard work and dedication are not just words people throw out to make you feel bad. I had to train, research, train some more, practice, train again. Hard work and perseverance are essential to achieving anything. And it’s totally worth it! There is nothing like the feeling of finally mastering a flip with a sword or staff!

“For me, this is just the beginning for becoming a stunt actor and stunt choreographer. I want to be the TV role-model for the new generations that I never had as a child; a strong, fierce, relentless, extraordinary, untypical black woman who can do whatever she wants and needs. This is why I feel so strongly about wearing my hair in an afro when I perform. For so long black women have been taught to be ashamed of their natural hair texture; I’m fighting to change the stigma around black women. We do not need to conform to Eurocentric standards of beauty. We need to accept that everyone is beautiful, all women are goddesses.

Images courtesy of Shaina West

“I have since worked with Disney, been involved with Star Wars, given performances and demonstrations at ACCESS ACTION: STUNTS, the first ever BAME stunt workshop and much more! Being a black stunt actor in a heavily euro-centric industry has been an eye opening experience and one day I hope to have my own TV show so that I can help get more BAME stunt actors the exposure they deserve, especially in this industry – where black actors (usually the sidekicks or villainous characters) are being represented by white stunt actors! Watch this space!”

Contact details: @TheSamurider. For more information, images or interviews, please contact: diana.young@wesocialis.com.

For those interested in learning more about creative people of colour in digital arts, don’t miss Root-ed Zine’s inspiring workshop at the International Slavery Museum this weekend exploring moving image, photography and animation, and much more. Root-ed Zine Art Group Crit takes place 1-3pm on Saturday, 15 December. Book your free place on Eventbrite.

 

Vote for women in our advent calendar!

29 November 2018 by Sam

illustration of a wintery scene including Liverpool landmarks

Each December we count down the days to Christmas with the National Museums Liverpool advent calendar. There’s a different surprise from our collections and exhibitions behind each door, with a new theme each year. Throughout 2018 we have been involved with a number of special events in our museums and across the city of Liverpool to mark 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which gave some women over the age of 30 the right to vote for the first time. So to celebrate the end of this significant year, we felt that a fitting theme for this year’s advent calendar would be women.

Naturally, I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises hidden behind the doors on the advent calendar, but I can tell you that there are some remarkable stories of a variety of pioneering women from across the ages, including scientists, artists and trailblazers, both from Liverpool and further afield. There will be names that you know and some that you are less familiar with, including a few surprises from our stores and archives which are not usually on display.

So don’t forget to open our advent calendar at www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/advent each day from 1 to 24 December.

If you can’t wait until December to find out about some of the inspiring women in our collections, then you can always visit the Taking liberties: women’s suffrage in Liverpool display at the Museum of Liverpool (don’t worry – it doesn’t contain any spoilers, we have plenty of other great stories to share with you!) Or take a look at the Christmas pages on our website for details of our free events, opening hours over the holidays, Christmas dining, gift ideas and more to get you in the festive spirit.

Helen Woolstencroft: from migration to me

30 October 2018 by Stephen Carl-Lokko

Dress with family photographs printed on the fabric

Detail of Helen’s dress ‘Eva’.

In this guest blog for the Sankofa project and as part of Black History Month, artist Helen Woolstencroft reveals how family and history play an important role in her sense of identity as an artist. In this moving tribute to her grandparents,  Helen tells us about the source of inspiration for her work:

“From a young age, I was always curious about my family. Being of mixed race heritage, I always wanted to know where I fit into the world. I was captivated by my Grandad Lionel, and always wondered what his life was like in Barbados before he came to England during the Second World War.  Read more…

Celebrating a fashion icon: Lois K Alexander Lane

12 October 2018 by Sarah

Lois K Alexander Lane. Credit: Courtesy of Susan McNeill and the Estate of Robert H. McNeill

We are honoured to have a guest blog from Joyce Bailey, daughter of the late Lois K Alexander Lane who is celebrated on our Black Achievers Wall at the Museum.

As a young girl, Lois K Alexander would look in boutique store windows and sketch the clothes she liked. She was clearly gifted, but not allowed to go in the stores to buy anything because of her race.  She later set out to dispel the myth ‘that Blacks were new found talent in the fashion industry’ and studied for a Master’s Degree from New York University. From there, her career in fashion was unstoppable. Read more…

Journey to Justice, DIY activism

5 October 2018 by Andrew Bullock

Over here zine fest poster

Over here zine fest poster

In addition to celebrating historic civil rights activists, International Slavery Museum’s exciting new exhibition Journey to Justice also aims to raise awareness of the ways that the fight for social justice can be continued and led by people like us. To showcase the fantastic work of activists working within DIY self-publishing networks, we invited Over Here Zine Fest to curate a selection of zines by BAME artists and writers. Here, Heena Patel discusses their involvement in organising Over Here Zine Fest and selecting the zines for the exhibition: Read more…

Teacher’s Evening – Get Involved!

24 September 2018 by Matt

Children in Museum

School visit

Want your class to experience a bit of hard work – Victorian style?  Ever fancied packing them off permanently on a ship to faraway climes?  Here’s your opportunity to find out how we can make this happen! Read more…

Making Civil Rights & Freedom Fights

23 August 2018 by Stef

Dorothy Kuya - Civil Rights and Freedom Fights card.

Dorothy Kuya – Civil Rights and Freedom Fights card.

This Slavery Remembrance Day, join International Slavery Museum Young Ambassadors and artist Hwa Young Jung (http://slyrabbit.net/) of Re-Dock (http://re-dock.org/) to find out more about civil rights movements in Britain and the USA and try out their ‘Civil Rights and Freedom Fights’ card game. Here, project artist Hwa Young Jung discusses the process of creating the game.  

Read more…

Do you know why this porthole is important?

22 August 2018 by Sarah

We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on the Walk of Remembrance, including this porthole over the Old Dock.

Are you joining us on the Walk of Remembrance this year? Every year thousands of people come together with us to make a special journey through Liverpool city centre.

People from all walks of life join the procession of reflection and take part in a public Libation service at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool to mark International Slavery Remembrance Day on 23 August – the date of the first successful revolution of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue (Modern Haiti) in 1791. This uprising led to the founding of an independent free country and inspired the fight for abolition across the globe.

We walk over and through some sites of historical significance on our Walk. Here, our Visitor Host, Daniel Wright, talks about the porthole in Liverpool One:

As I attend the walk of remembrance on 23rd of August (I hope to see you there! ) I will be very aware that the majority of people making the walk through the city centre may not know the significance of what is below their feet when they walk past the little porthole next to John Lewis.

On this journey toward Liverpool’s waterfront, people will pass the small porthole outside the store. It actually provides the viewer with a glimpse of the Old Dock, the world’s first commercial, enclosed wet dock.

Liverpool’s Old Dock was designed by 18th century civil engineer Thomas Steers. The importance of this dock is not to be underestimated. When it opened in 1715, due to its revolutionary gate system it was the most efficient dock on the planet. A ship could load or unload its cargo within a day and a half and be ready to go back out to sea. This was a vast improvement to the usual two week turn over period at the time. As a result commercial trade increased quickly and Liverpool became a major world trading port.

The new efficient dock system strengthened Liverpool’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This unfortunately meant that Liverpool became a main port within the ‘Transatlantic Trade Triangle’. This horrendous triangle of trade was the foundation to the town’s prosperity and development.

Slaver Ships would leave Liverpool and journey to  West Africa where traders in enslaved Africans were responsible for Liverpool seizing over 50% of the British trade. From there, millions of Africans were enslaved and transported to the Americas in horrific conditions. On arrival, the enslaved Africans would be sold and forced to work on plantations.

Liverpool slaver ships would return months later, carrying expensive and highly sort after commodities. These included sugar, tobacco, cocoa, cotton, coffee and rum.

Legacies of Liverpool’s links with the transatlantic slave trade are still around today. Street names such as Gildart Street, Bold Street and even the famous Penny Lane are all named after Liverpool traders. A detailed list can be seen in the International Slavery Museum on the third floor of the Maritime Museum at the Royal Albert Dock, Liverpool.

It’s quite poignant that our route toward Liverpool’s waterfront will echo the exact same route slaver ships followed centuries before…

If you would like to join the Walk of Remembrance, we are meeting at 11am on 23 August at the Church street bandstand (Liverpool City Centre). The Walk will finish at the Dr Martin Luther King Jr building, Royal Albert Dock, where we will hold a Libation, an ancient spiritual ceremony, at 12noon. Full details of this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day events.

A green resistance: plants and enslavement

10 August 2018 by Sarah

pale yellow flower

The design for this year’s Slavery Remembrance Day posters

Have you seen the new design for our Slavery Remembrance Day posters and leaflets this year?

They are all around the city centre and waterfront promoting Slavery Remembrance Day and the Unity Carnival.

A big, pale yellow flower sits in the middle of a black background.

Have you wondered why we have used this image? There are two reasons:

First, and for the first year ever, we have added a theme to the programme of celebration, commemoration and remembrance we hold annually for Slavery Remembrance Day. And that theme is ‘growth’. Many of our events will explore that idea this year.

This year’s design is related to growth, because the pale yellow flower on our new posters is actually the okra flower. We all know, and many of us will eat, the green vegetable – but maybe don’t recognise the flower.  Read more…



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Welcome to the National Museums Liverpool blog! Written by our staff and volunteers, we’ll give you a peek behind the scenes of our museums and galleries.

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We try to ensure that the information provided on our blog is accurate and that appropriate permissions to use images have been sought. The opinions in each blog are very much those of the individuals writing.