A multimedia exhibition to mark the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade opens in the Main Gallery of the United Nations Visitors Lobby.
Report by Devindree Pillay
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 at 6 p.m.
Upon hearing of the launch of the exhibition, “The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Honouring the Heroes, Resisters and Survivors”, I felt that it was something I should experience. Being a new intern here at the BKUN office, it sounded interesting to me, and I imagined that I would see various paintings which depicted slavery. However, entering into the Main Gallery of the Visitors Lobby was an experience that more than just ‘interesting’! The multi-media collection of original documents, historical illustrated newspapers and artifacts from a private 19th century collection graphically illustrated the devastating crime against humanity that was committed during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (all at once) in America – and this stirred within me a surge of extreme emotions : shock, disgust, anger, mercy and shame (for my blissful ignorance – I had no clue that this happened in history up until this point!) You can imagine what a dizzy explosion of feelings this was! So I had to consciously compose myself and remind myself of all the things that I have being trying to grapple with in my endless internal debate on the theme of justice and equality. The reminder that “each soul, does have the potential to liberate themselves from any circumstance” was, in that moment, quite comforting. True to this idea, the introductory speeches began and I learned, at that point, that the aim of the exhibition was to focus on many of the courageous individuals who, in various ways, resisted slavery and fought for their own freedom and that of others. As I progressed through the various sections, this brilliant aim of the exhibition unfolded, and I read of the encouraging stories of these heroes (might I add, many of them being women and young people). The launch was interspersed with a high energy traditional song and dance display conducted by Algeria and a culinary feast typical of Africa. I loved observing the respect and admiration on the faces of the attendees, which was in stark contrast to the absolute disregard for the humanity of the African ‘slaves’, as reflected in some of the initial images displayed. As Julia, my colleague, and I walked to the subway that evening, we had a deep, stimulating conversation, trying to understand and tease out the subjective experience of both the slave and the perpetrator.