“Trafficked” exhibition at International Slavery Museum, Liverpool, UK

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“Slavery has never been absent from the record of human civilisation,” William Hague writes in his biography of William Wilberforce, published in the bicentenary of the slave trade’s abolition. “Human ingenuity is such that illegal trading will always take place if a sufficient profit is to be had from the end-user,” the British Member of Parliament concludes “as the twenty-first-century traffic in drugs, arms and people continues to demonstrate.”

So as we approach the 250th anniversary of the birth of “the great anti-slave trade campaigner” (to quote Hague’s subtitle) on 24 August, it is worth visiting a new exhibition looking at the issue of human trafficking in Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum. That is, if you were not already planning on viewing the display on 23 August for Slavery Remembrance Day (designated by UNESCO to commemorate an uprising of enslaved Africans on the island of Saint Domingue in 1791).

Through case studies incorporating photographs and interactive means, “Trafficked” hopes to educate visitors in a subject which often stays under the radar.

The modest but hard-hitting display gives three case studies of people from different walks of life and how they have been affected by this modern-day slave trade, as well as demonstrating the work that goes on to stop it by the international coalition, Stop the Traffik (a movement of more than 1,000 organizations working together).

Yet, aside from the stories of Masud, Candy, and Jessica, the accompanying booklet, “Stop the Traffik: People shouldn’t be bought and sold” by Steve Chalke, highlights that “There are more slaves today than there were bought, transported and sold in the 450 years of the slave trade.”

The museum’s collections development officer Stephen Carl Lokko said: “At the core of the museum is the story of transatlantic slavery—and although that has been consigned to the history books, a lot of people don’t know that this is still part of the modern world and something we feel everyone should be aware of.”

A public meeting in honor of the late Mr. Wilberforce was convened by the Mayor of Hull on Monday, August 12, 1833 (a fortnight after his passing). Later that week, Friday, August 16, to be precise, The Hull Packet reported that Henry Broadley said of the abolitionist: “His hand was the first to unloose those bonds, and bolts, and shackles, which have long held so [many] in the chains of slavery.”

But Wilberforce would turn in his grave to learn that those bonds, and bolts, and shackles continue, approaching 180 years on, to enslave so many—and on the continent of Africa of all places, where boys are trafficked to work on cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast and where girls are abducted and used as soldiers and sex slaves in Uganda.

“Trafficked” runs at International Slavery Museum, Albert Dock until February 2010.

Slavery Remembrance Day festival 2009 events (21-23 August):

• Slavery Remembrance Day festival memorial lecture by Diane Nash
Friday 21 August, 6pm at Liverpool Town Hall
• Festival celebrating Black culture and heritage featuring music and performances
Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 August, 10am-4pm at International Slavery Museum

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