HERITAGE & REPRESENTATION
Lead, Threads and Petals:
responding to The Wentworth Blackamoor,
Wentworth Castle Gardens.
24 September, 2014
Video produced by Pavilion. Pilot project funded by Capability Brown Festival and Heritage Lottery Fund; leading up to the 2016 Capability Brown 300 festival.
Pavilion, a visual arts commissioning organisation in Leeds, presented an "installation, performance and discussion responding to the restored Blackamoor statue at Wentworth Castle Gardens, an 18th century garden at Barnsley." Heritage Corner was requested to provide traverse theatre linking the works of artist Carol Sorhaindo and historian Dr. Patrick Eyres.
The project title was Lead, Threads and Petals and Sorhaindo's installation was entitled Useful Forgetfulness - combining textiles, natural dyes and nature with the narrative threads of enslavement, industry and trade. Dr Eyres enlightened a capacity audience on the cultural politics of British landscape gardens and the pertinent history of Wentworth Castle in relation to the slave trade and the Blackamoor garden statue. Heritage Corner intersected perceptions of representation with ancient and transatlantic African anecdotes and narratives.
Carol Sorhaindo's installation - Useful Forgetfulness, drew inspiration from ancient stone circles, particularly Napta Playa, Nubia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nabta_Playa). Plant narratives would interplay with site and cultural narratives - human communities, as well as plants classed as weeds, were cleared to make way for the Wentworth Castle estate. Many different types of narratives are hidden or misprepresented by ambition.
Sorhaindo's response to the Blackamoor also spoke to the obelisk in the grounds of Wentworth Castle Gardens. Much larger ancient obelisks were shipped with difficulty from Africa to America and Europe in the 19th century. The oldest obelisk in the world is in Ethiopia, from the time of the great Queen of Sheba. The obelisk, from an African perspective, widens the issue of representation away from 'just' slavery to the shared human aspirations of wisdom, philosophy and civilisation building.
Heritage Corner entertained the large gathering with anectodes and quotes on ancient Egypt and Nubia - from Count Volney, Frederick Douglass and Leeds' own Wilson Armistead. Should Africans in history be redefined by past achievements or the objects of degradation imposed upon them?