Art helps Lancaster to face its past

The Facing The Past project which reflects on Lancaster’s slave trading history is now underway with a series of workshops.

Thursday, 28th October 2021, 3:45 pm
Artist Tina Ramos Ekongo who led the first Facing the Past community workshop at Lancaster Priory.
Artist Tina Ramos Ekongo who led the first Facing the Past community workshop at Lancaster Priory.

n artistic way of facing Lancaster’s slave trade past has begun with a series of free community workshops.

Lancaster Priory launched the workshops by hosting artist Tina Ramos Ekongo who helped visitors imagine and create the faces of victims of the slave trade to produce Black Portraits on Cardboard.

Originally from Equatorial Guinea and now based in Manchester, Tina’s style of mainly portrait work is very influenced by African traditional murals and artwork found in African barbershops and hair salons.

Lancaster Priory hosted a workshop to create black portraits on cardboard led by artist Tina Ramos Ekongo as part of the Facing the Past project.

“In school, I was never taught how to paint people who look like me,” said Tina. “I am determined to change that while making art accessible to everyone through my workshops.”

Tina will also run some school workshops as part of the Facing The Past collaborative project steered by Lancaster Priory Commissioning Group in partnership with the Judges Lodgings museum, Lancaster Black History and arts, heritage and community organisations including More Music.

Funded by Arts Council England, Facing The Past aims to reflect, reveal and redress omissions in the way the city has so far commemorated its role in the transatlantic slave trade. One of the people who took part in the Priory workshop said: “It was a great chance to be creative and learn about the project at the same time.”

The Priory was an appropriate location to launch the workshops as some slaves were baptised there and there are memorials both within and outside the church to families involved in slavery including the Rawlinsons whose grave was damaged during last year’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Young people will visit the Judges Lodgings during the Facing The Past project.

Lancaster Priory will host another free community workshop on November 13 from 1-4pm, led by Nayna Lad who taught art and design in Africa and the UK before running arts workshops where people are encouraged to experiment with different techniques and media.

More Music at The Hothouse in Morecambe is also involved with Facing The Past and will host a free community workshop on November 6 from 10.30am-12.30pm and 1-3pm.

This workshop will be led by Venessa Scott, a public artist renowned for painting one of the UK’s tallest murals in Manchester and also she has appeared on the popular CBBC programme, Colours.

For more information on the Facing The Past community workshops, visit: https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/museums/facing-the-past/

Reflecting on its past, Lancaster Priory will be a focal point of the Facing the Past project. Picture by Darren Andrews.

Facing The Past is a collaborative project between Lancaster Priory Church, the Judges Lodgings museum, Lancaster Black History and arts, heritage and community organisations including More Music.

Facing The Past, Phase 1 will focus on young people, young musicians and community members in Morecambe and a cross-section of the Lancaster community including the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community which is 4.4% of the local population.

Lancaster Priory Commissioning Group is steering Facing The Past. It is an active member of Lancaster Arts Partnership and has hosted many Light Up Lancaster events as well as its own cultural programme including the annual Festival of Song.

The Judges Lodgings museum, run by Lancashire County Council, commissioned Lubaina Himid’s Swallow Hard in 2007 to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade. She went on to win the Turner Prize and Swallow Hard was part of the Turner Prize show.

The museum has also hosted many cultural events and participated in Light Up Lancaster.

Lancaster Black History is a grassroots community group fighting racism through education. Its current research project with local people traces the links that prominent local families had with the triangular transatlantic slave trade.