People are flocking to Bath Abbey’s ground-breaking ‘Monuments Exhibition’, we asked a couple of exhibition-goers for their thoughts on an event that ‘aims to encourage visitors to reflect on past injustice and the need for racial equality now and in the future’.
Abby, a history student at The University of Bristol, has a penchant for public history. On her course she’s done plenty of work on Bristol’s involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. The course ‘centres’ on the involvement of famous figures such as Colston, Tyndall and Farr.
Bristol has always been in the spotlight for its involvement in the slave trade, especially recently when the statue of Edward Colston was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest earlier this year. Abby thinks it’s important that other parts of the UK are now investigating their own colonial history.
Inspired by the exhibition, Abby said the following: ‘Take the time to read it, think about it, and learn from it. It is still going on today, and we need to learn and move forward.’ She states that exhibitions like this ‘can help a lot of the sort of issues we have today, and can help create a better mindset for us going forward.’
Sue Rosario also understood the fundamental importance of this ‘sobering’ exhibition, stating that she ‘found it tremendously moving’.
‘I think it was a very honest account of the part that the church played in the enslavement of people from Africa. […] Exhibitions like this go a long way to doing that, explaining the history and making us think about what our forebears did in times when we were less enlightened.
Sue’s brother-in-law is from Gambia, and so for her the exhibition was especially personal, in that it discusses terrible happenings on The River Gambie that are connected to Bath Abbey.
Though these monuments evoke ghastly memories, the Abbey has said that it will not be removing them from the premises. Sue agrees with their position. ‘I think we could find ourselves tearing down a lot of buildings and monuments that are tainted’. Instead of demolishing Britain’s past, Sue argues that we should ‘re-interpret’ it.
In short, the exhibition comes highly recommended. It is running until the 4th of September. Don’t miss your chance to see it.
Words by Jonathan R Parsonage