London Sugar & Slavery Review
Review March 2009
Caribbean Sugar in London In 2007 many of the U.K.’s museums explored the role their country played in slavery as a part of its celebration for the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807. The dissoluteness involving the trade have left many presently, with emotional disfigurement. The mention of it in numerous circles is rather acerbic. Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum for example, with its interactive plantation in Barbados takes one back to a dark dreadful period. It is very common to find visitors weeping at various stages of said exhibit.
Museum at Docklands has also added to this exploration with its permanent exhibition, ‘London, Sugar and Slavery.’ With a bevy of pieces and effigies from that aeon, it succeeds in providing an edifying yet solemn experience for its visitors. It conveyed a message that demonstrates the strength of the human spirit. Prominent businessman and policymakers voraciously sucked the life of a system of which they benefited vastly and subsequently altered the lives of approximately 10,000,000.
Today, London, with its towering monuments, is undoubtedly a consequence of the slave system. Visitors may have been astonished to learn of institutes such as the Bank of England and Oxbridge being direct financial beneficiaries of the triangle trade. The triangle trade which involved African lives, king sugar from the Caribbean and European development.
The exhibit began with an introduction into African society focusing on the pre-slavery and pre-colonial periods. Then to the usage of terms such as enslaved African as opposed to slave which on the surface appear trivial but below carry a heavy burden. With information on Antigua, St. Kitts, Grenada and Brasil this titillating and stimulating exhibit used the knowledge of Caribbean intellectuals such as CLR James and Eric Williams to challenge the notion of slavery being simply an immoral act but an economic domination of resources and people thus creating what we now know as capitalist theory. Resistance, enslavement and lingering legacies were brought to this one time sugar storage facility.
A short film also divulged the emasculation and dehumanisation of the slave system. Abolition, the role of women, representation and reinterpretation of a people in European society. Overall, visitors could ruminate and discover a piece of the empire, on which the sun never set.
Review by Jo-Ann Hamilton 2009