2019 I was commissioned by the Royal Albert Memorial Museum to make a piece of work in response to their collection and the major exhibition looking at Devon’s links to the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Originally planned as part of a season of ‘Untold Stories’, this exhibition was inevitably delayed due to Covid. On what was supposed to be my last research trip to Exeter in March 2020 I was introduced to the Coombesatchfield textile from the 1760s which totally changed my planned response to the commission.
The development of the work was further impacted by events that unfolded around the world during the spring and summer of 2020. The rage sparked by the horrific death of George Floyd, highlighting a universally casual disregard of black lives, fused with the tragic repercussions of Covid-19 created a very different setting for the work. If there hadn’t been this shift to the ‘world order plus the extended time to reflect on the subject due to successive lockdowns, it is likely that I would have produced a less complex response to the commission.
The resulting work is a conversation with that original tapestry telling the story of sugar production and consumption in the 17th and 18th centuries from both sides of the Atlantic. Colliding the worlds of immense wealth and privilege alongside the trauma and pain of the enslaved on a single plane, the work brings together related histories usually separated by selective amnesia