These Things Matter: Empire, Exploitation and Everyday Racism is a new exhibition opening at The Bodleian Library in Oxford on 17 November 2022.
In collaboration with the Museum of Colour and Fusion Arts, the exhibition will feature the work of seven contemporary artists, who have created work in response to artefacts from the Bodleian’s collections which demonstrate how everyday communications maintained the British Empire and Transatlantic Slave Trade.
The curator and founder of the Museum of Colour, Samenua Sesher, personally selected the artefacts, held in the libraries’ private collections of over 13 million items.
The Slave Bible (1807), a censored version of the Bible specifically made to teach a pro-slavery version of Christianity, was Sesher’s entry point into the library’s collections, inspiring her to look for more objects that were symptomatic of how everyday materials enabled and maintained the slave trade.
Other items include Clark’s Chart of The World (1822), a brightly coloured view of the world depicting areas with different ‘degrees of civilisation’, as well as accounts from slave owners, scientists and artists.
The contemporary works created in response span sculpture, installation, sound art, poetry and more, by artists Bunmi Ogunsiji, Grace Lee, Amina Atiq, Dirty Freud, Nilupa Yasmin, Mahdy Abo Bahat and Johannah Latchem. Works include a spoken word piece, an audio-visual artwork and a mixed-media installation.
The exhibition is available to view in-person at the Blackwell Hall in the Weston Library at Oxford and globally through the MoC’s digital platform.