Glasgow has some strong links to the slave trade, with streets named after plantation/slave owners along with places where slaves were taken from or the locations of plantations. The area known as Merchant City is where the major tobacco, tea & sugar plantation owners had their businesses and/or mansions. Even what is now the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art was the home of the slave owning tobacco merchant, William Cunninghame.
I’ll be exploring these connections in more detail over the coming weeks, however, in preparation for some printmaking experiments I’ve begun by developing a digital collage, pictured below. It’s worth mentioning at this point that I’m hoping to use a blend of traditional craft techniques & digital techniques in my work. For instance printmaking from 3D printed block and perhaps casting in bronze from 3D prints.
I’m looking forward to trying new things on the MFA, particularly print making. I did a small amount of that when I was at FE college, which I enjoyed, but never did any more after leaving for DJCAD. I’m also thinking about sculpture, again I did some at FE College but then jewellery design took over.
I haven’t made a firm plan where I’m going with research etc, however, my starting point is the subject of slavery in Scotland. Last year I was commissioned to make a prop for a short film about two runaway slaves. The film was set in Scotland in the year 1745. Scottish history is a subject I like, I’ve done a fair bit of reading on the subject over the years and while I was aware that Scotland has a dark past connected to the slave trade I can’t remember reading much about it at all.
The contact with the film makers and creating the prop had ignited an interest in this part of our past and so, as I said, it’s my MFA starting point. I’m not sure where it will lead or what kind of output it’ll create, I’ll just let it develop over time. Clearly though, while the past has generated the interest, slavery still exists today albeit the terminology is different, with it now called ‘people’ or ‘human’ trafficking. This also leads on to issues of fair trade, the ethical production of goods, sweatshops, and closer to home (as a jeweller) the ethical production and supply of metals and gems so there’s scope to expand, or not, we’ll see as things develop.
I’m not going to go into any great detail about the film, I’ll let the following trail speak for it instead.
From the film Vimeo page
Director: Gordon Napier
“When two young black slaves escape into the wilds of 18th century Scotland, they must use all of their courage and strength to survive, unite, and stay free. On their journey they rediscover their spiritual and cultural connection to one another in pursuit of freedom through a foreign land set against an epic and elemental backdrop at a turbulent time in Scotland’s history.”
Starring: Clive Russell and Moyo and Morayo Akandé Producer: John Mckay | Writer: Morayo Akandé | DoP: Julian Schwanitz | Editor Florian Nonnenmacher
You can read & see more about the project on the film website or Facebook page
I was commissioned to make the collar worn by Moyo in the film. It was based on two historical examples, one from Wales and one from Glasgow. My collar is shown below, worn by Moyo at a test fitting. David Andrews is the name of the character played by Clive Russell. Seeing the collar on Moyo was very strange.
While I was really happy with the quality of the work, it’s meaning overshadowed that. The Glasgow collar I linked to above is made from silver and it’s sole purpose is to show the wealth of the owner, one of the main reasons for the wearing of jewellery, however, in the case of a slave collar the wearer is also a possession to be shown off as a status symbol.
It’s with that in mind, as I begin the MFA, I hope to be able to raise awareness about Scotland’s past connections to the slave trade and possibly develop that into connections with modern slavery etc. that I mentioned above.
I’ve resurrected the digitalMaker site to help keep track of my progress on the MFA Art & Humanities course at DJCAD. This blog will be the front page of the site with other pages added as and when required. I haven’t used this site since 2013 and most of the content had been removed with the exception of some Arduino related blog posts, however, I’ve removed them as well because they were a bit dated. I might use micro controllers during the MFA though so more related posts might appear.