Recently, I saw Moira Stuart's documentary, In Search of Wilberforce, in which the newsreader (since deposed at the BBC after over 25 years) went in search of alternatives to the William Wilberforce myth. In Montego Bay, a local historian stood under the bell tower where many abolitionist heroes were hanged in the name of the British Empire and declared, "If England wants to make William Wilberforce the hero, that is England's business. We are saying these [the likes of Jamaican National hero Sam Sharpe] are our the heroes that we want to honour for the end of the Slave Trade.
After seeing that documentary, I yearned for more alternative voices, and out came Toyin Agbetu, seemingly out of nowhere! He disrupted the service at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 27 March in commemoration of the Abolition of the slave trade, shouting, "This is an insult to us!" Too right! I don't know what they mean in the above newspaper cut-out when they say, "The Queen and Prince Philip look on." I seem to see the Queen (top right corner of the pic, in hat) doing her best to ignore the whole thing. Says a lot.
See videos of Toyin Agbetu in action here - with thanks to the wonderful professor of African theatre who sent me the link!
The Agbetu protest brought about some interesting comments on newspapers readers pages in the UK, like these ones (right) in the Metro of 29 March. The second one down really caught my eye, as illustrating the problematic nature of identity in today's world. Here was someone named Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako (as derivative of Ghanaian civilisation as any) writing to say:
"We are often remorsefully cacophonous about the injustices our predecessors inflicted on the Africans. But are we truly ashamed of our ancestors' inhumane treatment of the African people?... If we Westerners..."
Well, you get the idea! Excuse me, Kwaku, but "Our [Western] ancestors"? "We [Europeans/Westerners]"? Hello? Is anybody home?
I wondered if Mr. Kwaku stopped to consider that the average Westerner with which he aligns himself - would see his name and identify him (and not unreasonably so) as one of those 'Africans' whose ancestors suffered in one way or another because of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
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