Andrew Hunter and Dr. Marenka Thompson-Odlum
Complementing the exhibition Critical Mass, 1745 is a new short video installation by Glasgow-based artists, writers, and actors Morayo and Moyo Akandé – London-born daughters of Nigerian immigrants. Developed in collaboration with filmmaker Gordon Napier, the film illuminates the hidden history of slavery in Scotland, referring to the tumultuous year of the Jacobite rising of 1745 to recount the story of two Nigerian-born sisters who were enslaved in the Caribbean and brought to Scotland. In this work, they try to retake their freedom in a foreign and hostile land, attempting to elude their master in the perilous Scottish Highlands – the landscape that has become essential to the Scottish identity. Documenting their traumatic flight through a quintessentially rugged Scottish environment, the film offers a harsh reminder of the isolation and vulnerability of Black bodies in a colonial terrain.
The Akandé sisters have grounded their research in fugitive slave records, developing a work that challenges dominant national narratives. Like the focus on the Underground Railroad that overshadows the practice of slavery in Canada, Glasgow identifies with a powerful Abolitionist history that obscures the foundations of the city’s economy in the slave trade. St. Lucian scholar Dr. Marenka Thompson-Odlum, whose research addresses the deep history and substantial traces of Glasgow’s legacy of slavery, co-curates this presentation. The presentation of 1745 in Guelph speaks to the significant Black histories as well as the impact of Scottish immigration in shaping the cities and towns in our own region.
Image detail: Morayo and Moyo Akandé with Gordon Napier, 1745, 2017, digital video, 18 mins [Photo: Jonathan Birch & Christian Cooksey]
Organized by the Art Gallery of Guelph, the exhibition is organized with the support of the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council of the Arts. 1745 is presented in collaboration with Centre for Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph and the Guelph Black Heritage Society.
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