Last Thursday night (24th August) the Kinning Park Complex‘s weekly Community Meal took the form of a special event to mark UNESCO‘s designated ‘International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition’. Organised by poet and author Kate Tough, this was a thought provoking and energising evening of lovely food (provided by Küche), good company and interesting discussion.
© 1745 film (https://www.edfilmfest.org.uk/2017/1745)
However the highlight for me was the acclaimed short film ‘1745‘, which is about two enslaved sisters escaping into the Scottish wilderness against the back drop of other well known events in Scottish history. Sisters Morayo Akandé, and Moyo Akandé play the lead roles and their performances are excellent. It is a haunting and evocative portrayal of what life may have been like for the African women captured, enslaved and forced to work in grand houses in Scotland in the eighteenth century. Their reasons for taking the risk of escaping their oppression are made all to clear. I hope Morayo and Moyo are successful in their indiegogo campaign to fund a full length feature. This is very much a story that needs to be told.
The University of Glasgow’s ‘Runaway Slaves‘ research project were advisers to the filmmakers and Nelson Mundell was present with Zandra Yeaman of the Coalition of Racial Equality and Rights to lead the discussion following the film along with Kate.
Over recent weeks there has been increasing discussion of Glasgow’s historic connections to the slave trade and the legacy of this for the city. This is not surprising given events in the United States relating to the removal of confederate monuments and the resulting backlash from white supremacists.
Glasgow’s eighteenth-century built environment and architecture was shaped by Tobacco Lords and West India merchants, in what is now rebranded the Merchant City’. This was paid for by the wealth generated by the trade in enslaved Africans and the products of their labour. Similarly Glasgow’s cotton industry had a direct link with the plantations in North America. Industries throughout Scotland were developed in the 19th Century by industrialists and capitalists who had made their fortunes not only through their own entrepreneurial endeavours, but through speculative investments in Sugar and Cotton. Glasgow is not alone in this. Cities and towns throughout Scotland benefited from the money made by individuals through ownership and investment in slave plantations.
For some commentators Scotland is yet to come to terms with this legacy given the lack of permanent exhibition space or a museum to acknowledge the role of slavery in the nation’s development. However for others, acknowledgement of Glasgow’s and Scotland’s prominent role in the accumulation of wealth from the trading in captured and enslaved Africans is well on its way to becoming mainstream and a well-known part of the city’s and nation’s history.
Discussions are ongoing and will continue in Glasgow and beyond with a series of events in the next few months.
If you are interested in finding out more about the legacy of slavery in Glasgow see:
Stephen Mullen‘s It Wisnae Us The Truth About Glasgow and Slavery (The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights worked with the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) to launch this publication detailing the true role of Glasgow in the trans Atlantic slave trade)
University of Glasgow research project – Runaway Slaves in Britain: bondage, freedom and race in the eighteenth century
For more information on upcoming events in Glasgow and beyond see:
Black History Month – for listings see http://www.crer.scot/black-history and http://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/listings/region/scotland/
Kate Tough’s website where you’ll find details about Glasgow Slavery Remembrance