Turner Prize winning artist Lubaina Himid will open a major new exhibition at Judges’ Lodgings this month which will address an often-overlooked period of Lancaster’s Black history.
British artist and UCLAN professor Lubaina Himid, who won the Turner Prize in 2017, will open the ‘Facing the Past’ exhibition at Judges’ Lodgings Museum, which will look at Black Lancastrians living in the area in the 1700s.
A series of portraits have been commissioned from artist Lela Harris depicting historic individuals Thomas Anson, Frances Elizabeth Johnson, John Chance, Isaac Rawlinson, ‘Ebo Boy’ and Molly.
Lancaster was once the fourth largest slave trading port in the country, and slave ships made 125 slaving voyages from the city to West Africa. Some of the furniture and portraits on display at the museum were bought by Lancaster families involved in the slave trade and the West Indies trade in goods produced by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, such as sugar and rum.
Lynda Jackson, Museum Manager of Judges’ Lodgings, said: “We are very proud to present this fantastic exhibition which shines a light on an important period of our history.
“It is a great coup for artists Lela Harris and Lubaina Himid to be involved in this project. We give them our thanks and can not wait to see you when the museum re-opens on Thursday, March 30.”
Jenny Waldman, Director of Art Fund, said: “The previously overlooked story of Lancaster’s Black history will be brought to light through this moving series of portraits by Lela Harris.
“I’m delighted that Art Fund has been able to support this important exhibition through our Reimagine grants programme, helping to deepen Judges’ Lodgings’ relationships with its community and engage new audiences.”
The information on those featured in the new commissions comes from church records, runaway slave adverts and family stories. They lived at a time when Lancaster merchants invested in selling an estimated 30,000 enslaved Africans through the Atlantic Slave Trade.
They are shown alongside some of those who benefitted from slavery – Abraham Rawlinson, Mary Hutton Rawlinson, Benjamin Satterthwaite and Jane Hardman – painted by significant portrait artists including George Romney and Joseph Wright of Derby.
Some of the furniture and portraits on display at the museum were bought by Lancaster families involved in the slave trade and the West Indies trade in goods produced by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, such as sugar and rum.
The portraits are accompanied by a young peoples’ exhibition. Local school children from Bowerham Primary School, the Cathedral Catholic Primary School and Dallas Road Primary School have created portraits of ‘Ebo Boy’, a young African man who escaped from slavery in Heysham, Lancashire.
Enslaved Africans were often given new names to strip them of their identity. The children helped give ‘Ebo Boy’ a new name to reflect his African heritage and life story, Afamefuna, which means ‘My name will not be lost’ in the Igbo language.
The exhibition will run from March 30 to November 5 at Judges’ Lodgings Museum in Lancaster. Supported by Art Fund, and the Association of Independent Museums and National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to National Lottery Players.