Barbara Walker, Vanishing Point 29 (Duyster), 2021. Courtesy the artist and Cristea Roberts Gallery, London
Black Atlantic: Power, People, Resistance
Sep 8, 2023 – Jan 7, 2024
Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge, UK

Which stories get remembered, and why? This exhibition explores some new stories from history – stories that help us to separate fact from fiction and history from myth. By bringing together collections from across the University of Cambridge’s museums, libraries and colleges with loans from around the world, Black Atlantic: Power, People, Resistance asks new questions about Cambridge’s role in the transatlantic slave trade and looks at how objects and artworks have influenced history and perspectives.

In 1816, Richard Fitzwilliam donated vast sums of money, literature and art to the University of Cambridge, creating the Museum that is named after him. But Fitzwilliam’s generosity was only possible because of the wealth his grandfather accumulated in part through the transatlantic slave trade. Acknowledging this story for the first time has led to new discoveries about the objects Fitzwilliam donated, the people who collected them, and the cultures that created them.

Displaying objects and artworks made in West Africa, the Caribbean, South America and Europe, this landmark exhibition also reveals the histories that have been silenced; not just stories of exploitation, but those of resilience and liberation, too. It shows how through resisting colonial slavery, people produced new cultures known as the Black Atlantic, that continue to shape our world.

Historic works are shown alongside modern and contemporary works by artists including Barbara Walker, Donald Locke, Alberta Whittle and Keith Piper that challenge and reflect on hidden and untold stories.

The stories in the Black Atlantic can help us to create a fairer future. By rethinking our connected and complex histories and looking again through the lens of contemporary art, tomorrow’s story can be one of repair, hope and freedom.

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