Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge explores founder’s slavery hyperlinks | Slavery

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An exhibition by the Fitzwilliam Museum will discover Cambridge’s connections to enslavement and exploitation for the primary time, each within the college and the town.

Black Atlantic: Energy, Individuals, Resistance options works made in west Africa, the Caribbean, South America and Europe, and interrogates the methods Atlantic enslavement and the Black Atlantic formed the College of Cambridge’s collections.

Historic items can be exhibited in dialogue with works by trendy and up to date black artists together with Donald Locke, Barbara Walker, Keith Piper, Alberta Whittle and Jacqueline Bishop.

Between 1400 and 1900, folks resisting colonial slavery within the Americas produced new cultures referred to as the Black Atlantic, the museum stated.

By asking questions on how Atlantic enslavement and the Black Atlantic formed the college’s collections, the museum stated it has made new discoveries about Cambridge’s personal connection to colonialism.

The exhibition begins by trying on the early historical past of the Fitzwilliam Museum and its founder, Viscount Richard Fitzwilliam (1745-1816). A pupil at Cambridge, Fitzwilliam left a big sum of cash and an intensive artwork assortment to the college upon his dying, founding the museum that bears his identify.

It’s revealed how a major a part of Fitzwilliam’s wealth and artwork assortment was inherited from his grandfather Matthew Decker, a outstanding Dutch-born British service provider and financier who in 1700 helped to ascertain the South Sea Firm, which obtained unique rights to site visitors African folks to the Spanish colonial Americas.

The present’s first part, Glimpses of the World Earlier than Transatlantic Enslavement, will spotlight the unbiased histories of west Africa, the Caribbean and Europe, with highlights together with uncommon pre-1500 instruments and ceremonial stone objects from the Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean and Jan Jansz Mostaert’s Portrait of an African Man, which is believed to be the earliest particular person portrait of a black particular person in European artwork.

Part two, Cambridge Wealth from Atlantic Enslavement, reveals how the earnings of enslavement filtered into on a regular basis life in Britain, and the way European colonies handed legal guidelines that created racial classes to justify enslavement and promote anti-black racism.

Examples of historic race-based pseudoscience, some developed by lecturers at Cambridge, can be displayed alongside reflective items by up to date artists, curators, activists and lecturers.

Trend, Consumption, Racism and Resistance appears to be like at how merchandise harvested by enslaved folks – from mahogany, ivory and turtle shell to espresso, sugar cane and tobacco – turned modern supplies for European luxurious items and central to on a regular basis consumption in Britain.

And the ultimate chapter, Plantations: Manufacturing and Resistance, highlights the contribution of Indigenous, enslaved and free black folks to main scientific discoveries and botanical data, which have been introduced again to Britain. Among the many works included is John Tyley’s drawing of a younger man sitting below a breadfruit tree – a uncommon instance of a historic and named black artist depicting a black topic.

The exhibition, which opens in September, is the primary in a collection of deliberate exhibits and interventions on the Fitzwilliam Museum between 2023 and 2026.

Luke Syson, the museum’s director, stated the exhibition was “an essential second within the historical past of the Fitzwilliam”.

He added: “Reflecting on the origins of our museum, the exhibition situates us inside an infinite transatlantic story of exploitation and enslavement, one whose legacy is in some ways as pervasive and insidious in the present day because it was within the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth century.”

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