This summer 103 remarkable and beautiful fibreglass globes have appeared in many sites across Britain. They can be found in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool and Swansea as well as in 7 London boroughs and the City of London itself. The project is supported by a range of sponsors and local authorities under the guidance of the Heritage Fund and the Arts Council of Great Britain. There are many cultural events and walks and talks throughout October in all the participating cities. Do take a look at these magnificent artefacts which will only remain in place until the end of October 2022. You can find out about these from the website here. The project also supports a programme of educational events and resources for schools and colleges.
Perhaps the most moving aspect of the project is that each of the artworks is dedicated in honour to an enslaved person whose existence is only known to History through their name appearing on a slave register. The details of their life are obscured and all we know is that they lived.
Yesterday I went to the City of London to explore the ten magnificent and moving globes that have been installed there through the month of October. You can find an interactive map of the trail here. Each of the ten globes raises a different aspect of the long and tragic story of enslavement and its impact on the peoples of Africa and the developing Western capitalist economies of the West. The website also has links which tell us about the artists and the thinking behind their work.
The City trail starts right in front of the Royal Exchange at Bank junction. The first globe glories in the beauty of Mother Africa. It is called the The Timeless Cosmic Calabash: We Will Mend This Broken World. The artist is Foluso Oguntoye. You can find out more about her and this work here.
Moving on we find the next artwork down near Cannon Street station. This is the work of Glen Brooks and is called Bought and Sold and Gold and deals with the brutal reality of enslavement. This is the artist’s statement.
Progressing along the ancient streets of the City we come to Old Change Court where the third globe can be seen. It is by Kione Grandison. It is called Let us not Forget. It responds to the theme ‘Stolen Legacy: The Rebirth of a Nation’, which brings to life how Britain was transformed and enriched as a result of the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and the free labour of the enslaved. Here is the artist’s statement.
Take a few steps down Peter’s Hill towards the Millennium Bridge and you will find this wonderful image from C18th London. This is the fourth globe and it is The Road To Freedom, Hidden In Plain Sight by Asiko Okelarin. This artwork explores the theme of Abolition and Emancipation and questions the motivations behind them.
The next work can be located in the piazza under the imposing front of St Paul’s cathedral. It is by the distinguished artist Yinka Shonibare whose work has adorned the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square. It is a truly fascinating work which is presented as a map superimposing the routes of the Triangular Trade of the age of enslavement with the movements of imperialist capital and modern migration. The artist explains the thinking behind this complex work here.
In Bow Yard near the statue of the sturdy voyager Captain John Smith we find Movers of the Past and Shakers of Tomorrow by Anglo-Zimbabwean artist Natasha Muluswela. It looks at the issue of racial justice and gives us striking images of Michaela Cole, Marcus Rashford, Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou.
We move on now to the very powerful artwork of Curtis Holder in Guildhall Yard. In this work two sketchily drawn figures evoke echoes of the past in the present. The artist wants to examine the long-term behavioural, psychological and material impact of enslavement over time. Find out more here.
Yet we still Arise celebrates resistance to enslavement. You can find it in the shadow of some of the City of London’s tallest buildings on St Mary Axe near St Andrew Undershaft church under the bowels of the Lloyd Building. The work is by Winston Branch. The bright green of this work takes us to the dense forests of the Caribbean islands where the Maroons held sway.
Greeting Essex commuters outside Fenchurch Street is the wonderful artwork of Sarah Owusu entitled Our Cup Runneth Over. It celebrates the spirit, talent and culture of the African Diaspora that as found such powerful expression in music and art around the world.
Finally reward yourself for completing this trail at Aldgate in the shadow of St Botolph’s and have a coffee and a piece of cake while contemplating the last of the City of London’s World Reimagined globes. It is the lovely New Union Flag by Gil Mualem-Doron. The flag is made up of fabric designs from all over the world. We are urged to reimagine a future in which we can recreate a society based on the respectful understanding of our shared history.
After you have finished looking at all these amazing and vivid works of art why not go off to explore the trails in Camden-Westminster, Lambeth-Southwark or Hackney-Newham or even Bristol or Liverpool?