Slave House

Holly Bynoe, chief curator of the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas references this series in the Nassau Guardian in Dec 2016 as “….collaged images that eerily echo to the former grandeur of those few who benefitted from the colonial era and the ruins that remain…..” . Colonial slavery has shaped our world and we are living with this legacy. Photographs from Slave House, Williamstown, Little Exuma, the Bahamas and Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamphire, England have been blended to contrast the grotesque imbalance that existed then and the shocking inequality which is still prevalent now; Only, the form is different. These ‘houses’ resonate with themes of economic dislocation, migration, slavery and movement of peoples.

Merged photographs from these two dwellings, blend the boundaries, contrast the grandeur with the decrepitude, the luxuriant with the scant, the boundless with the chained to highlight these journeys.

In the settlement called Williamstown, Little Exuma, Bahamas, “Slave House” is locally referred to as ‘Nigga House’ owned by the Bowe’s. It was the subject of the pivotal land tenure Bahamian case of 1961-62 under the 1959 Quieting of Titles Act which set the precedent of generation property land titles in the Bahamas.

Waddesdon Manor was built between 1874-1889 in the style of a lavish French Chateau for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild to house his extensive collection of art treasures and to entertain his aristocratic and royal friends in the English countryside such as Queen Victoria. It is now owned by The National Trust who has upheld its original grandeur.

Nathan Meyer Rothschild was praised for his role in the abolition of the slave trade through his part-financing of the 20 million pound British government buyout of the plantation industry’s slaves. However, in 2009 it was claimed that as part of banking dealings with a slave owner, Rothschild used slaves as collateral. The Rothschild bank denied the claims and said that Nathan Mayer Rothschild had been a prominent civil liberties campaigner with many like-minded associates and “against this background, these allegations appear inconsistent and misrepresent the ethos of the man and his business”. Reported by the Financial Times June 26th 2009

Slave House, Exuma is now a dilapidated wreck of a shameful past occupying disused land in the most beautiful of settings surrounded by emerald green seas and crystalline beaches where there is little opportunity for young people due to underdeveloped infrastructure, deprivation and the typical exodus of young people to the city, in this case, Nassau.

The phrase “To Cross this Sea was not in My Plan,” was uttered by a distraught Libyan refugee on the BBC news after having been rescued from a failing, inadequate boat off the coast of Greece.

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