Slavery and Colonialism are terrible atrocities, the evils of which have never been perpetrated on any other race like that against the African. As an avid student of history and somebody that has continually read and studied the machinations of Europeans on Africa, I felt I had a total understanding of the black holocaust.
I learnt of Exhibit B, an exhibition that relives some of the heinous crimes perpetrated against black people and found myself interested until I learned that the exhibition was the work of a white South African. A prejudice perhaps, but the historical oppression of black people in their homeland of South Africa must make one pause and contemplate.
Finally, after much consideration, I made the trip to Edinburgh to see Exhibit B. I am content that I did. This exhibition brought to life some of the horror experienced and being experienced by black people. I left a different person. It has an honesty that has been lost or avoided in celluloid depictions like Django or 12 Years A Slave, directed by Steve McQueen (McQueen made the film on his wife’s recommendation. Mrs McQueen is white) or any other slave movie told by Europeans. It is important to say at this point, I have not watched any slave movie from start to finish and that includes films like The Help. They have all seemed to tame the abomination. For example the castration and burning of black men that accompanied lynching is not depicted. Similarly with the rape of black women by the white men of the town before they were lynched, pregnant or not.
I found that Exhibit B brought home some of the reality that films have failed to and it gave me an appreciation of the strength of black people to continue against all odds, particularly the black woman. This exhibition makes the case for reparations all the more compelling and is a demonstration of not only the physical atrocity visited upon black people but also the psychological depredation that black people still live with today.
That is my position. I appreciate and understand that others believe Exhibit B to be “racist”. Sara Myer who is leading a petition against Exhibit B says, “I want my children to grow up in a world where the barbaric things that happened to their ancestors are a thing of the past. We have come a long way since the days of the grotesque human zoo we should not be taking steps back now”. The petition can be found here. As criteria for banning an exhibition, surely it also applies to the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool where annually Slavery Remembrance Day is held on 23 August. Every day in this museum and others like it around the world the barbaric things that happened to black people are remembered. Not because we might forget. The truth is that most people do not appreciate the severity and depth of depravity of the transatlantic slave trade. The reverberations of which are still with us.
The interesting thing about Exhibit B is that it disagrees with Sara Myer’s statement as much as Sara Myer’s disagrees with the exhibition for what Exhibit B demonstrates is that “the barbaric things that happened to [the] ancestors are” [not] “a thing of the past” and there is much work to do.