Legacies: Commemorating the bicentenary of British abolition


Colette Gilmartin, Tony Curry and young people from Tameside and Trafford, 2007
Mixed media

Object number M20852
Commissioned by Manchester Art Gallery, 2007

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This colourful banner was created by young carers from the children's charity National Children's Homes, to commemorate the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. They explored issues of injustice and freedom, inspired by discussions about slavery. Working with poet Tony Curry and textile artist Colette Gilmartin, the group expressed their response to the history of the slave trade through a piece of textile art and poetry:

Memories remain within,
no spaces in between.
Fearful journeys
4 a substance obscene.
Processed, tagged,
scabby, stressed.
Mills tease
to scam a sweat so sad.
Dyeing, bronzed, enslaved.

The Abolition of the Slave Trade Act passed by the British parliament in 1807 did not put an end to slavery, it only made it illegal for British participation in the trade. In 1833, parliament passed another act to end British slavery, although this was replaced by a period of forced 'apprenticeship'. True emancipation did not take place until 1838 and in some British colonies slavery continued as late as the 1920s. Despite subsequent acts passed by many countries, slavery still exists in many forms today, including child labour.

This information was provided by curators from Manchester Art Gallery.