“A New Dawn – The Era of Reclamation” aims to provide a challenging, thought-provoking and radical forum for debate at the House.
The first partnership in our cultural programme is an installation by critically acclaimed British visual artist, rapper and producer, GAIKA, whose work fuses black club music culture with architecture, engineering, graphic design and political theory to create multi- dimensional works that defy conventional categorisation. It aims to address the House of St Barnabas’ links to slavery – like many cultural institutions in London, House of St Barnabas has a colonial past, owned in the 18th Century by Jamaican slave owner Richard Beckford. GAIKA’s family were enslaved by Beckford in Jamaica.
Robert Beckford’s father Alderman William Beckford was the Lord Mayor of London and the Beckford family wealth came directly from slavery. There are countless monuments to these slavers, and several London institutions built with their profits yet little critical assessment of this reality.
With this installation, newly appointed Director of Engagement Gillian Jackson, aims to open a dialogue around black identity in what she calls the ‘Era of Reclamation’ – a time for conversations around ownership, ‘not only of ourselves and our identities but of our streets, and the public buildings that should belong to all of us.’
In joining the House, and delving deep into its history, she has come to realise that Richard Beckford also enslaved her family.
Gillian says ‘We cannot deny the country’s role in slavery and the extent to which the nation’s wealth is built on the foundations of these horrific crimes. Like a number of the cultural institutions that make up the fabric of this great city, House of St Barnabas has a colonial past.’
‘I have a personal connection to this story. As a Black Woman and Director of Engagement of House of St Barnabas, I plan to openly explore the House’s relationship with slavery. I hope to understand how we as a society can learn and grow from such histories and to open a radical forum for debate around one of the most vital issues facing museums and cultural spaces in the UK and globally.’
The installation is an exploration of black survival and the institutions that have profited heavily from that survival. It is a visceral reclaiming of physical space and a representative calculation and recording of the wealth that slavery has given to the United Kingdom, and London in particular. This is not a record of the horrors of slavery or an ode to black victimhood, it is a discussion and thought provoking piece about power.
GAIKA PRESENTS: FLIGHT RECORDER, Installation in the Bazalgette Room
GAIKA’s installation is based on the internal recorders from a highly advanced aircraft named Bohemia. It is named after the district in rural Jamaica, where his father was born and is now buried. Bohemia is in Westmoreland where his grandfather was from and where the Beckford plantations were.
GAIKA refers to the motion from slavery to freedom, across mountains oceans and time itself – Flight. And the flight recorder is a black box which holds all of the memories of his past. This craft, now crashed, is the ephemeral physical body that burns with black power.
By creating a mystery object within one room of the House and a series of transmissions around that object, GAIKA hopes to create directed discourse around the role of slavery, and power within institutions. More generally this work will form a critique of the racist foundation of capitalism, right here in the city of London.
Watch this space for details about the accompanying event series.