Scarlet shackles sit peacefully on display in front of a sad, gray backdrop. The now rusted leg irons once locked human ankles during 18th century voyages from Africa to some European port, then to the Americas.
Who the shackles held remain a mystery. But as a citizen of the United States, I've likely broken bread with a descendant of the woman forced to wear this instrument. Maybe my uncle fought alongside her kin in a war. Or it's possible one of her distant relatives is now be my relative.
These are the thoughts I entertain recently while walking through the reflective International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England. Founded in 2007 on the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, the museum sits just a short walk from the dry docks where slave trading ships were repaired and fitted out in the 1700s. (And it's close by the The Beatles Story, the world's largest permanent exhibition purely devoted to the hometown band.) Once a major slaving port, Liverpool grew thanks to merchants' financial ties to the enslavement of people to the Americas.
Today, the building tells the story of the enslavement of people from Africa and how this British city benefited from human bondage. The Liverpool location reclaims a space once connected to worldwide human suffering and is similar to O Mercado de Escravos — the slavery museum in Lagos, Portugal, where the European slave trade began. But Liverpool's museum is much larger, more interactive, and more ambitious without being exploitative.
Inside, visitors immediately are taken on a meditative experience focusing on Africa before European contact. You are greeted by quotes of American abolitionists and civil rights leaders etched into stone walls before you see traditional masks from present-day Sierra Leone and Mali. There are vibrant textiles from Ghana, intricate headdresses from Cameroon and samples of Igbo wall painting from Nigeria. You can listen to samples of drum signals from the Republic of Congo or a Mbuti hunting song. The messages are clear: before enslavement, Africa was a diverse and complex continent with long artistic and religious traditions.
Next, visitors are whisked toward a room tackling enslavement and the brutal Middle Passage. Racial ideologies and Europe's unfamiliarity with the cultures of Africa sparked the slave trade which grew once European powers expanded to the Americas, the museum tells us. In this room, details of the voyage of the ship Essex are reconstructed. That's a slave ship that left Liverpool on June 13, 1783, just nine years after the American Declaration of Independence.
During the Middle Passage portion, visitors encounter shackles and chains used in forts and castles along the African coast to hold humans before their horrific journey. A small replica of a slave boat illustrates how captives were tossed into small compartments. Next to the ship are 18th-century whips and branding irons. Yes, these were used.
Then, there was resistance, liberation, and the long fight for civil rights. Surprising, I walked into an area dedicated to the African American heroes from Harriet Tubman to the Rev. Martin Luther King. Jr. and Malcolm X. U.S. news footage from the 1950s and 1960s illustrates how the descendants of those who crossed the Middle Passage had to fight for human rights and against violence amid white supremacy — the ideology that launched racialized slavery in the first place. There's also photos of the civil rights struggles in the United Kingdom from London's "Keep Britain White Rally" in 1960 to the Toxteth Riot of 1981 in Liverpool over allegations of police harassment.
The museum ends with a space for changing exhibits related to the themes around modern-day slavery. During my visit in November, I encountered an exhibition called "Am I not a woman and a sister" — a moving image installation by England-based artist Elizabeth Kwant. She co-created the project with female survivors of modern-day slavery in partnership with Liverpool charity City Hearts. The project links current human trafficking to the story out of the Middle Passage.
In the U.S., journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has sparked conversations about the legacy of slavery in that nation's history with her interactive 1619 Project in The New York Times. It examines the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved people from West Africa on the present-day America's eastern shore. The project challenges readers to consider how their own lives have been shaped by the legacy of slavery and it is helping inspire activists in places like Albuquerque, New Mexico, to push for their own museum of black history.
Walking by an installation of former slave and abolitionist Olaudah Equiano, I heard two young black women discussing the 1619 Project and how they didn't understand the criticism it faced for trying to reshape a narrative in the U.S. As we left the Equiano sculpture, we stopped at a display of a 1920-era Ku Klux Klan robe and hood from Port Jervis, New York. The outfit that was once used to terrorize blacks and Catholics stared back down at us. We were silent. But I could feel we were relieved the glass case surrounding it protected us. We were safe for now.
But were we?
Islamic University of Technology Photographic Society (IUTPS)’s photographic exhibition Break The Circle: Season 9 begins at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) on Wednesday.
Jointly organized by IUTPS and BSA, the three-day long exhibition features a total of 66 solo photographs and 8 photo stories, selected out of 5,923 submissions by students from school-college-university and freelance photographers from different parts of the world.
“As our Islamic University of Technology is a subsidiary organ of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), we have been able to call for photographs from its 56 member states, thus making it an international exhibition,” IUTPS President Md Shahriar Mahbub told UNB.
Abir Abdullah, principal of Pathshala, the media institute affiliated with Drik Gallery, Bengal Foundation Chief Curator Tanzim Wahab and freelance photographer Pronob Ghosh moderated the submissions as judges, while the exhibition was curated by photographer Jewel Paul.
Started in 2011, this year’s exhibition marks the ninth edition of this annual event of IUTPS.
The exhibition is open for all and will continue till December 20, every day from 3-8pm at Gallery 2 of National Art Gallery.
A tomb dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was discovered in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the province's archaeology institute said Tuesday.
The tomb, found in Yancun Village, Xixian New District, is believed to belong to Xue Shao, the first husband of Princess Taiping, daughter of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang Dynasty.
The Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology worked on the excavation of the tomb from August to December this year, and unearthed a total of 120 relics, most of which are painted pottery figures.
A well-preserved 600-word epigraph was also found on a square stone with a length of 73 cm on each side, which records Xue Shao's pedigree, government post, cause of death, burial time, offspring and other information.
The tomb, 23 km from the site of the ancient city of Chang'an, known as Xi'an today, faces south and is 34.68 meters long and 11.11 meters deep, said Li Ming, a researcher with the institute.
The discovery fills an important gap as there is no biography for Xue Shao in the "Old Book of Tang" and the "New Book of Tang," two classic pieces recording the Tang Dynasty's history, and helps the study of the epigraphs and the tomb layouts, as well as the political culture of the period, Li said.
Housing and Public Works Minister SM Rezaul Karim on Tuesday said there is no alternative to practising healthy culture in order to prevent anti-liberal militant and communal forces from prevailing.
“To prevent militancy and communalism, there is no alternative to practicing healthy culture. In this case, we have to practice Bengali culture because it is our root,” he said.
He made the remarks while speaking as the chief guest at a music festival arranged as part of the 25th founding anniversary of Dhaka University (DU) Music Department at the Teacher-Student Center (TSC).
Alumni, current students and faculty members of the department joined the festival alongside many renowned singers.
Minister Karim noted that despite economic development, the social and moral values in the country have degraded rapidly.
“We’ve achieved economic prosperity through rapid development but we haven’t been able to achieve the desired morals and values. This is partially due to the degenerate culture practice,” said the minister.
He mentioned that practice of healthy culture, especially country’s music, can help improve the situation.
“Those who cherish, possess and practice music, cannot indulge in militancy and communalism. You can keep yourself away from the poison of communalism,” he said, urging everyone to work for revitalising country music.
“Music can add enormous potential to create a non-communal, culturally rich, modern digital Bangladesh. However, in order not to allow us to be consumed by degenerate cultures, we have to rekindle all forms of Bangla songs including Jari, Sari, Bhatiali and so on,” he said.
He lauded the DU music department for arranging a suitable programme as part of their anniversary celebration.
DU Pro-VC Prof Dr Muhammad Samad said the mesmerising power of Bangla music is an indispensable part of our culture.
Housing Minister, DU Pro-VC and DU music department Chairman Tumpa Samadder handed over the Nilufar Yasmin Memorial Scholarship to music department student Khandaker Anika Islam.
Celebrated Bangladeshi Nazrul Sangeet exponent and also the late faculty member of the department Nilufar Yasmin was honoured posthumously at the programme.
Singer Mita Haque, Tapan Mahmud, Tapan Chowdhury, Dinat Jahan Munni, Sharmin Islam, Bijon Mistri and artistes of the department performed at the programme while an impressive opening session took place earlier where 250 students sang in a chorus.
As part of the final charm of the first day, celebrated Indian singer Sreeradha Bandyopadhyay graced the stage and captivated the audience with her voice.
On the second day of the festival (Wednesday), Bangladeshi celebrated artistes Ferdous Ara, Khairul Anam Shakil, Syed Abdul Hadi, Rafiqul Alam and Hasina Mumtaj along with teachers of the department will perform while two Bangladeshi bands are scheduled to perform at the programme.
With the theme ‘Bangla Gaan’ (Bangla Songs), as part of the silver jubilee celebration programme, teachers and students of music department started the celebration Tuesday morning.
A colourful procession was brought out at 10am from the Arts Faculty building. The department’s teachers, current and former students and staff joined the march.
DU Vice-Chancellor Prof M Akhtaruzzaman inaugurated the festival at 11am at TSC while Professor Emeritus Dr Rafiqul Islam and Pro-VC Dr Nasreen Ahmad, among others, were present as special guests.
Experts will take part in the discussion and shed light on the situation of music in institutional education, its success, contemporary crisis and plans to overcome those issues Wednesday as part of the silver jubilee programme.
The festival is co-sponsored by Diamond World and ABMT. United News of Bangladesh (UNB) is the media partner of the event.
In 1993, a subsidiary course on music was introduced directly under the supervision of Dean, Faculty of Arts, Dhaka University. A similar course on theatre was introduced in 1989, also under the Dean, Faculty of Arts.
Both of these separate units were brought under a single departmental administration on August 1, 1994 and named as the Department of Theatre and Music.
In 1995, the department introduced two MA programmes – one on music and another on theatre. In 1998, the Department of Music introduced four-year honours and one-year Master’s degree course on classical, folk, Tagore, Nazrul songs and instrumentals. MPhil and PhD degrees were also included and started from 2000.
In 2009, the Music Department started its journey as an individual department.
Currently, over 250 students are studying for Honours and Master’s degrees on Tagore, Nazrul and folk songs, and classical music.
Archaeologists in Egypt have unveiled two new artifacts from antiquity, a rare statue of one of the country's most famous pharaohs and a diminutive ancient sphinx.
Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities announced that a pink granite statue of celebrated ancient ruler Ramses II was found last week, describing the artifact as "one of the rarest archaeological discoveries."
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said the three-and-a-half-foot statue was crafted in a style that ancient Egyptians used to portray and capture an individual's essential nature, adding that it was the first such statue to be found fashioned from granite.
A hieroglyphic inscription found on the back of the stone bore the name "strong bull," a reference to the king's "strength and vitality," he added.
The statue, caked in mud, was found on the property of a man arrested earlier this month for carrying out illegal excavations near the ancient pyramids of Giza, according to the ministry statement. It did not say how the statue came to be on the man's property.
"It's in very good condition," Niveen al-Areef, a spokeswoman for the antiquities ministry, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "We are now studying its importance and trying to determine its inscriptions."
Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great, ruled Egypt for around 60 years, from 1279 B.C. to 1213 B.C. He is credited with expanding ancient Egypt's reach as far as modern Syria to the east and modern Sudan to the south.
Over the weekend, Egyptian archaeologists also unearthed a dwarf limestone sphinx from a ditch in the southern desert province of Minya. At barely over one foot tall, the statue is no match for the towering Great Sphinx at the Pyramids of Giza, but the ministry said its finely carved face, which appears well-preserved, reflects impressive artistic skill and attention to detail.
Egypt frequently touts its archaeological discoveries in hopes of spurring a vital tourism industry that has been reeling from political turmoil following the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.