Revealing Histories: Remembering Slavery

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Free Thyself: drawing - Afolabi, Mr Gbenga

Free Thyself
Well basically what came to me when I was doing this was how people had concentrated so much on that black people should be given their freedom and it is a good thing that black people should be freed and were freed by the British Government then. But what came to me personally, I am an advocate for people seeking self freedom. And it is one thing being given freedom and it is another thing taking, you know you are not just going to sit down at home and like kind of fight for freedom. It makes more meaning to you because you actually fought for it.

So whilst thinking about that, I kind of just made a sketch, it is just like somebody who is basically freed like the chains have been smashed and you know it has obviously been broken and the person has like been given the key. Sometimes we forget there are still prejudices that still attaches to you because you were once a slave. You still have to fight - to like, to stand up and fight like donít let these prejudices that hold you back. So these chains that have been broken signify those prejudices and you have the key which is just like in your power, you know educating yourself, trying to get everything you can from life so you are not going to make yourself stuck in that same position where you donít want to find yourself in.

So we have to change your mental ability and everything that you can to make sure you are where you really want to be. And basically it is like if you turn that around it is like in Africa it is like - to enunciate where you are from they give you tribal rites, just it is a two way artwork and if you are Biafran, if you are from a drummer family you have a different kind of mark. If you are from a hunter family you have a different kind of mark and stuff like that. So it is like freeing yourself and free thyself. And it is just a will of man, conscious kind of thing that you want to free yourself. So I think it is good to, if we have to encourage ourselves to free ourselves.

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Gbenga Afolabi explains the meaning behind his drawing 'Free Thyself'. He created the drawing as part of his involvement in creating a new display; Attitude: Remembering Slavery in the CIS Manchester Gallery. The new display explores the impact and legacy of Manchester's involvement in the transatlantic slave trade.

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