Individual exhibition, through September 7, 2014

This exhibition by the acclaimed Jamaican artist Laura Facey explores not only the indescribable cruelty of slavery but also the transcendent nature of the human spirit, through a number of artworks.

Laura Facey Cooper, Their Spirits, 2006 © Donnette Zacca

Laura Facey Cooper, Their Spirits, 2006 © Donnette Zacca

At the heart of the exhibition is Their Spirits Gone Before Them, 2006; a cottonwood canoe, floating on dried sugar cane. Inside the canoe are 1,357 resin miniatures of ‘Redemption Song’, a monument which stands at the ceremonial entrance to Emancipation Park in Kingston, Jamaica. It was previously exhibited at the World Bank in Washington DC.

This canoe represents two journeys: one was made by the millions of Africans who were enslaved and taken from their homeland during the transatlantic slave trade and the other is Laura Facey’s own personal transformation in creating the piece. Laura’s inspiration came when she was asked to create souvenir miniatures of the ‘Redemption Song’ monument:

« I began to ‘see’ my miniatures in a canoe and a struggle began inside me: How can I take my healed Redemption Song figures and place them in a slave ship? »

Laura Facey Cooper, Their Spirits (detail), 2006 © Donnette Zacca

Laura Facey Cooper, Their Spirits (detail), 2006 © Donnette Zacca

Laura went in search of the perfect vessel. In Jamaica, fishermen hollow out canoes from giant cottonwood trees; her miniature figures, each of them representing approximately nine hundred enslaved Africans who were transported to Jamaica, were installed; the canoe was set on a sea of sugar cane and Their Spirits Gone Before Them emerged.

For this journey the iconic slave ship has been transformed and while it acknowledges the grim reality of the enslaved Africans, « It’s not about ropes, chains or torture » but rather, it is a « sculpture that communicates transcendence, reverence, strength and unity. »

Laura Facey also said: “In one moment the viewer of Their Spirits can experience the history and memory of slavery. The canoe sits on a sea of sugar cane – a commodity at the centre of the trade in enslaved Africans. The men and women in the symbolic canoe are enslaved yet they stand with dignity – upright and facing each other. Visitors, if they’re familiar with Bob Marley’s Redemption Song, may hear the words: ‘None but ourselves can free our mind’. The work indicates a way to go forward with a freed sense of spirit.

Laura Facey Cooper and Their Spirits, 2006 © Donnette Zacca

Laura Facey Cooper and Their Spirits, 2006 © Donnette Zacca

As well as the canoe installation, Their Spirits will also contain a number of other artworks by Laura Facey. This will include nine prints and other sculptures.

Artist talk on July 19, 2014 at 2 pm. Free event, no need to book.

The acclaimed Jamaican artist Laura Facey discusses the inspiration behind her exhibition, Their Spirits.

International Slavery Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool, UK.

Exhibition on view daily, between 10am – 5pm, from January 31 through September 7, 2014. Free entry.

Headline picture’s credits : Poster © International Slavery Museum