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Black Lives Matter - A speech from the opening of the Reframing Picton exhibition at National Museum Cardiff

The Reframing Picton group, 13 October 2022

Black Lives Matter.

For generations, even up to recent years, that’s been a controversial statement. Thomas Picton is only one of many instruments of the British Empire who exported, demonstrably, an opposing belief.

I’m unsure where I heard this but it’s stuck with me since:

“The instant a subject becomes aware they have been exposed to propaganda, that propaganda ceases to be effective”

In the case of Thomas Picton and his legacy, drenched in the blood of Africans and Native Caribbeans, was sanitized, valorised iteratively while he lived and especially following his death. The murder of George Floyd spurred people and institutions into gear, Amgueddfa Cymru were thankfully one of those institutions.

At the heart of the idea of empire is a differential sense of importance. Some places are more important than others, setting up the Metropole and the Colony. A center and a periphery. The prevailing narrative has always been fundamentally white supremacist, at the expense of Africans and Natives. The British Empire used the metropole-colony model to evade accountability for events driven by people like Picton.

Reframing Picton represents a divergence from this narrative. 

In the time we worked on this project we made a point to expose, not erase history. It was essential that we directly involved people connected to Trinidad, where Picton entrenched his reputation for barbarism during his tenure as Governor. 

Amongst the goals for this exhibit is the creation of a site of conscience rather than indoctrination. To create a dialogue between museums, the governments that fund them and the communities they serve. To create healthy ways of addressing.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a quote that I think encapsulates the purpose of the project most pertinently:

“If we want our future to be better than our past we need to challenge which aspects of our culture we preserve, build upon and deconstruct”

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