"Forgotten Saints": Seychellois artist captures suffering of slavery
People interested to view the exhibition have until the end of the month to do so. (Creative Seychelles Agency)
An exhibition called "Forgotten Saints," where the artist chose to work on photographs of slaves, has opened at the Eden Art Gallery on Eden Island and is expected to tour Africa.
There are 33 works on display produced by veteran artist Emmanual D'Offay, who sees himself as a slave activist who denounces slavery for all its atrocities.
"I believe the better way to do that is with all the photographs – because all the photos seen here are of real people who were brought to Seychelles as supposed liberated slaves, who were never liberated," said D'Offay.
People interested to view the exhibition have until the end of the month to do so and purchase the works on show as well.
With names such as "I am Human" and "The Martyr", D'Offay took the photos of the slaves and added his own unique touches to humanise them contrary to the original pictures that were taken.
|There are 33 works on display produced by veteran artist Emmanual D'Offay. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
"They were each given a number; they lost all links to their families and links to their heritage, so I got all this information and what I wanted to do is show their suffering and since they have gone through all this pain, why can't they be called saints?" he asked.
D'Offay also mused that during his five years of working on the exhibition, he realised that the slaves were martyrs who exemplified courage and sacrifice.
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, received seven slaves among the first 28 settlers who arrived on board the Telemaque on August 27, 1770. They settled on the inner island of Ste. Anne.
As of the 1780s, hundreds of slaves were transported each year on the small island shores. They came from West and Central Africa - formerly Zaire - now the Democratic Republic of Congo – and the south-eastern coast of Africa - Mozambique and Madagascar.
"They endured unspeakable sufferings and deserve to be remembered," said D'Offay.
This is why he has decided to pay tribute to their extraordinary actions by calling them forgotten slaves.
|D'Offay revealed his plans to have the exhibition tour the African continent. (Seychelles Nation) Photo License: CC-BY
Towards the end of the slave trade in the region in 1835, many vessels were caught and set free and sent to Venn's Town on Mahe Island, where there was a school for the children of freed slaves.
D'Offay revealed his plans to have the exhibition tour the African continent.
"I am working with the African Union and other such organisations so that my work may be viewed in countries that have been directly linked to the slave trade, such as Ghana," he added.
The artist also expects to be shown in Ethiopia – the seat of the African Union.
"Forgotten Saints" prints will be handed to the Seychelles National Institute for Culture, Heritage and the Arts (SNICHA) to keep for its own records.
The exhibition is a sequel to D'Offay's last exhibition held five years ago, called "Raped Identity" which continues to explore the themes of slavery, exploitation and sufferings of the past.