London: Ahead of the annual Remembrance Day for the abolition of the slave trade, art conservationists are working to restore a rare painting of a kneeling African slave to go on display in the British port city of Liverpool.
Acquired by the International Slavery Museum in 2018, the “Am Not I A Man And A Brother’ painting depicts an enslaved African, kneeling, bound in chains and looking to the sky.
It is based on a design commissioned by the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787 and was used by the potter Josiah Wedgwood to campaign against slavery, making it one of the first instances of a logo used for a political cause.
“We’ve done quite significant conservation on the painting,” Laura Pye, director of National Museums Liverpool, told Reuters. “(The) conservation team has done an incredible job of cleaning it up. So I don’t think there’s anyone that’s seen the painting as it currently looks.”
August 23 is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The painting is still being restored and is due to go on display later this year.
In the biggest deportation in known history, weapons and gunpowder from Europe were swapped for millions of African slaves who were then shipped across the Atlantic to the Americas.
Millions of African men, women and children were torn from their homes and shackled into one of the world’s most brutal globalised trades between the 15th and 19th centuries. Many died in merciless conditions.
Those who survived endured a life of subjugation on sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations. Britain abolished the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1807 although the full abolition of slavery did not follow for another generation.