AS Trinidad and Tobago celebrated Emancipation Day yesterday, an art exhibition depicting the tyrannical rule of slave owner and British governor Sir Thomas Picton opened at the National Museum Cardiff in Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom.
Picton, who was governor of Trinidad from 1797 to 1803, had been portrayed in the museum as a military hero for over 100 years due to the fact that he was the highest-ranking British officer to be killed defending Britain in the Battle of Waterloo, Belgium, in 1815.
Last year, the National Museum Wales removed his portrait from display because of his brutal treatment of slaves and indigenous people. It commissioned Trinidadian Gesiye Souza-Okpofabri and the group Laku Neg to create new works of art that actively reinterpreted Picton’s legacy. Laku Neg is represented by four members of Trinidadian heritage who live and work in the UK.
Picton’s portrait, alongside the works done by the T&T artists, is now on display.
According to the UK Guardian yesterday, Picton’s portrait is no longer in the museum’s Grand Faces of Wales gallery, but in a “modest side room”. “It is surrounded by vivid descriptions of Picton’s brutal treatment of the people of Trinidad when he was governor at the turn of the 19th century, including the torture of Luisa Calderón, a 14-year-old girl of mixed heritage,” the report said.
“To reach the portrait, the visitor passes through two other rooms packed with a pair of thought-provoking, specially commissioned works by artists who are from Trinidad or have strong connections to the island, as part of an exhibition called Reframing Picton,” it noted.
Save T&T from embarrassment
Speaking during Emancipation Day celebrations in Port of Spain yesterday, founder of the Caribbean Freedom Project Shabaka Kambon made another call on the Government to save Trinidad and Tobago from embarrassment on Independence Day by acting now and replacing streets, monuments and signs named after the “tyrant of Trinidad”and “blood-stained Governor” known as Picton, as well as others like him. “When the country of Wales is recoiling from the open glorification of Picton, we continue to celebrate Picton without questioning,” he said.
Kambon noted there were over seven streets and places named after Picton, among them Picton Street in Laventille; Picton Road, Sangre Grande; Picton Street, Woodbrook and San Juan; Picton Street and Picton Street Extension in Diamond Village, Penal; and Picton Court Apartments, Port of Spain.
“Seven streets honouring a man who practised and participated in the trafficking and enslavement of our ancestors; a man who made his money by hunting our ancestors who ran from the plantations and reselling them into slavery, and then putting them on his own plantations; a man whose rule was characterised by scandal and torture of a 14-year-old black girl, for which he was tried and convicted in the UK,” Kambon said.
“Now to top if off, in an unprecedented move… and if you want permission to action, ministers and authorities listening… the Queen of England in the Royal Collection has amended, for the first time in history that we are aware of, the write-up under a portrait of governor Picton, to include his connection to slavery and slave trading and the crimes he committed in Trinidad. If at that level they are prepared to act, we who are the descendants of the victims of his crimes, on Emancipation Day, must also be prepared to act,” he stressed.
The crowd gathered outside the Treasury Building responded with a resounding “no” when Kambon asked if they were prepared to glorify people like governor Picton who practised and believed in white supremacy.
“So that commission to look into the names of streets that honour people like governor Picton, people like (Sir Ralph) Woodford, who is the greatest white supremacist in this country’s history, and others… that commission is long overdue and we in the Caribbean Freedom Project and Emancipation Support Committee await our invitation to participate in such a commission,” he said.
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