Annette Cobley with the terracotta figures created with community groups in Manchester as part of the Revealing Histories year-long programme. Courtesy Chris Foster / Museum of Science and Industry
Visitors to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Manchester are being invited to create terracotta figurines to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.
‘Did Slaves Build Manchester? Manchester, Cotton and the Slave Trade’, a free event in association with the People’s History Museum, will take place at MOSI on March 1 2008. It will focus on the slaves that were shipped to Manchester to form part of the textile trade triangle with West Africa and West Indies.
The clay figures will be created at a public workshop run by local artist Annette Cobley, and placed in a specially crafted wooden boat, to be displayed in MOSI’s Textiles Gallery. The aim is for it to act as a reminder of how Manchester’s wealth is inextricably linked with slavery.
Annette Cobley said: “The terracotta figures are all different sizes, shapes, genders and races, and will be made as individuals to symbolise how these were all people with their own personalities, although they were treated as commodities.”
The days’ events will also include performances of a short historic drama piece by the People’s History Museum - 'No Bed of Roses', a creative workshop for younger children, and performances by Manchester poet Lemn Sissay.
Dr Alan Rice, reader in American Cultural Studies at University of Lancaster, said: “People fought very hard against the institution of slavery and sought freedom again and again. One individual, who came to be known as Henry ‘Box’ Brown, escaped by being posted in a box from Virginia to Pennsylvania with just a bladder of water for sustenance.”
The event is part of a year of activities throughout Greater Manchester, which began in 2007, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Act, which was passed on March 25 1807.