Museum of London exhibition lifts the lid on modern day slavery in the capital

By Nick Owen | 15 August 2011
A neon sign from Soho, representing the testimony of Elena in the exhibition
© Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos
Exhibition: Freedom from: Modern slavery in the capital, Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, London, August 23 - November 20 2011

A new twin exhibition will expose the shocking reality of slavery and trafficking in 21st century London.

Opening at the Museum of London and Museum of London Docklands, Freedom from: Modern Slavery coincides with the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

Through a series of sobering photographs, personal testimonies and displays, the exhibition tackles the perception of slavery and trafficking as issues confined to history.

'Sarah', a survivor of child trafficking and domestic servitude
© Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos
The exhibition also incorporates the views of those fighting to eradicate modern slavery in the capital.

“There is something so appalling about it - it strikes so deeply," says Kit Malthouse, the Deputy Mayor for Policing in London who will open the exhibition.

“Aside from the moral duty to other human beings, I do not want London having a reputation that these things are easy to do”.

The startling stories of victims such as 'Gheeta', trafficked from India to London and forced to hand over her earnings to her trafficker, also confronts the belief that slavery is only an issue facing the developing world. 

“I would work nearly 80 hours a week, seven days a week. He would hit me if I didn’t come home straight away after my shift."

Gheeta was also raped: “Once when I tried to stop him he said he would kill me, chop me up and send the pieces to my family”.

The personal testimonies are accompanied by a series of large-scale commissioned photographs by World Press Photo award-winner Chris Steele-Perkins, forming the centre of the exhibition.

The 11 images capture the journeys of those caught in the world of slavery as well as survivors now campaigning against forced labour and trafficking.

Mende Nazer, survivor and campaigner against human trafficking in her home
Mende Nazer - campaigner and survivor of human trafficking and domestic servitude - in her home.© Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos
The life story of survivor and campaigner Mende Nazer – who is featured in the exhibition – will be told in conjunction with the Feelgood Theatre in the premiere of Slave – A Question of Freedom, which opens on September 6. 

Coinciding with a new campaign launched by exhibition partner and the world’s oldest human rights organisation, Anti-Slavery International, the Slavery-Free London campaign is attempting to tackle the problems the London Olympics might pose, such as the lure of non-existent jobs to vulnerable people by human traffickers. 
Aiden McQuade, the Director of Anti-Slavery International, said: “The stark reality of slavery today will hopefully shock visitors into joining our Slavery-Free London campaign to curtail the problem in the run-up to the Olympics and beyond”.

The photographic display will be exhibited in the Inspiring London Gallery at the Museum of London, and at the Museum of London Docklands a survivors’ quilt lent by Survivors Connect will hang alongside new patches created by women who have suffered trafficking.

  • To find out more about Anti-Slavery International, visit their website here.
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