A Service Remembering Our Forebears in the Infamous Transatlantic Trade of Enslaved Africans
On Sunday 17th November, Belfast Cathedral's traditional Sunday evensong hosted Links & Legacy's 400th anniversary commemoration of the commencement of the Transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans. Led by Dean Stephen Forde, the service featured a sermon from Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson, and foregrounded art and dance from the African & Caribbean community.
Through a moving service, leaders of Churches and charities from across the city reflected on the untold suffering inflicted on Africans through the slave trade, and appealed to God to aid in healing the hurt caused. The Rev Dr Thompson's sermon especially highlighted the international aspect of the slave trade, and how it permanently ruptured the threads of so many lives as the British, Dutch and American governments continued to profit. Speaking to the continuing impact of the slave trade, he stated, 'there are those for whom this act of recall is uncomfortable either because of shame or guilt. However, to imagine that we can simply move on, forgetting the injustice, which laid the foundation for the racism that is alive and well in our time, that laid the foundation for the human trafficking that we see today; to avoid a recall of those centuries of injustice would be to reinvent, revise and re-do the injustice to those forbears.'
This week's collection raised money for the African and Caribbean Support Organisation NI (ASCONI).
From left we have Ade Oduko, Makena McKinley, Deans Vicar Mark Niblock, Clover Watts, Dean Stephen Forde, Amelia Oduko and Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson.
A series of art works are currently situated in the Cathedral, created by Vikkie Patterson, who has a background in French and German and lived and worked in Guadeloupe in the French Caribbean following her studies at Trinity College Dublin. She received a first class degree from the Belfast School of Art in June 2019 and has exhibited widely including recently at Stendhal Festival of Art.
For the work created for the Links and Legacy 400 exhibition, she has drawn on her understanding of post-colonial history and the traumatic experience of transatlantic disenfranchisement of the enslaved to create a painting which is rooted in the expression of freedom of people of African origin today.
"My work is influenced by the concept of art brut, and in particular by Jean Dubuffet, a great believer in intersectional art, and the theories of art practice delineated in his critical writing. He maintained that ‘ideas, and the algebra of ideas, may be a level of knowledge, but art is another means of knowledge, whose levels are completely different: they are those of vision.' The legacies of the trans-Atlantic slave trade are such that I would hope that my painting would firstly educate those people, mostly in this case people from Northern Ireland, who are not aware of the history or the aesthetics of modern day people of African origin as this aspect of humankind is not well represented in the media and secondly my painting would uplift those who might see it, perhaps on a daily basis, as it would be a symbol of overcoming, through the work of abolitionists, maroons and others throughout history with a sound sense of right and wrong, the systemic abuse and racism of a system which held humans in its grip for too long. I would hope that it would be a vision. It is obviously important that people of African origin see themselves represented fairly after years of being represented in diminutive ways in art and this would be my intention for this anniversary of the commencement of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, to promote equality, respect and representation. To educate, encourage conversation and address the legacies of trans-Atlantic slavery as well as vanquishing misconceptions and racist myths".
Artist Vikkie Patterson
Find below the full service sheets, and the full text of Rev Dr Livingstone Thompson's sermon.