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At the Limits of MemoryLegacies of Slavery in the Francophone World$
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Nicola Frith and Kate Hodgson

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381595

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381595.001.0001

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Imaging the Present

Imaging the Present

An Iconography of Slavery in Contemporary African Art

(p.209) Imaging the Present
At the Limits of Memory

Claire Griffiths

Liverpool University Press

In this chapter, Claire Griffiths considers the contribution of three contemporary West and West Central African artists to the wave of global commemorative initiatives memorializing the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its abolition over the past few decades. She considers how African artists have instrumentalized European iconographies of slavery and abolition in order convey a powerful message relating to pressing issues of development, economic marginalization and exploitation in Africa today, such as the exploitation of African oil by multinational corporations. This is given prominence through a radical re-configuration of the enslaved bodies depicted in the established European abolitionist icon, the Brookes slave ship, in the work of Beninese artist Romuald Hazoumé. Another Beninese artist whose work responds to and re-defines trans-Atlantic iconographies of slavery and abolition is Pélagie Gbaguidi in her Code Noir series. Finally, the prize-winning installation De 1848 à nos jours by Moridja Kitenge Banza also offers contemporary commentary on the making of postcolonial Africa through a re-working of the ‘Brookes’ image. The iconography of slavery is thus being re-interpreted and built upon by contemporary African artists, who use it as a platform to address a global audience.

Keywords:   Africa, Slavery, Abolition, Iconography, Art, Brookes, Contemporary, Memory

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