Haitian anti-slavery sculpture tours UK
To mark the 200th anniversary of the end of the slave trade, a group of Haitian artists have produced a sculpture which represents their continuing struggle for freedom and human rights.
The Freedom! Sculpture is made out of recycled objects such as metal car parts and raw junk found in the dangerous slums of the capital, Port-au-Prince. It was created by young Haitians and sculptors Eugène, Céleur and Guyodo from Atis Rezistans in collaboration with Mario Benjamin, an internationally renowned Haitian artist who has represented his country at Biennials in Venice, São Paulo and Johannesburg.
Freedom! was jointly commissioned by Christian Aid and National Museums Liverpool and was unveiled at the end of February in Liverpool’s Merseyside Maritime Museum . It will tour the UK, taking in London and Bristol. before returning to Liverpool for permanent display in the new International Slavery Museum, which opens on 23 August – the day which commemorates the uprising of enslaved Africans in Haiti.
Haiti became the first black republic as a result of the first successful slave revolt. Today, however, it ‘s the poorest country in the western hemisphere with 82% of the rural population living below the poverty line, according to the UN, and 70% of the population is unemployed.
The artists held workshops with young people benefiting from the work of APROSIFA, a Christian Aid-supported organisation in Haiti set up to provide basic education, run health clinics and work towards an end to gang fighting.
“People don’t have chains on their arms and legs now,” said Ronald Cadet, one of the young collaborators, “but people still have chains in their minds. When you have problems getting enough food, housing and education. You are not living in a free country.” But, he said, working on this project made him see there was hope and “strength in being united”.
Rose Anne Auguste, the founder of APROSIFA, said: “When you live in shanty towns you can feel like you have no right to culture. It is sad that Mario Benjamin had to teach these kids to visit museums. Their parents are too busy surviving to take them to museums.”
Mario Benjamin, Artistic Director for the Freedom! sculpture said: “For me, it was very important to show that slavery has always been part of civilisation. My ambition was that we would create something that is quite universal, that is about suffering, hoping, fighting, what humanity has been about all the time.”