Earlier this week I viewed couple of TV documentaries that I have found quite disturbing.
First, Empire: Making a Fortune [BBC 1 Mon 9pm 19-03-2012], which included an examination of the slave trade, I encountered testimony of the exploitation and mistreatment of slave that was most disturbing. For instance the inhumane punishments included being stripped, coved in molasses and tied down for 24 hours so the victim was covered in flies by day and mosquitoes by night; another included being whipped and dedicated on! In addition one slave owner commuted over 3000 rapes on women slaves and the custom was to allow his guests to do likewise. This shocking behaviour and attitude was justified by them by rationalising that the slave were not really people, they were merely the owners property and the felt they could do with however they wished. On the back of slave labour though many plantation owners became extremely wealthy, some were from relatively humble backgrounds such as an English farmer but were now part of the new rich. The fact that there are now more people than ever, including at the height of the transatlantic slave trade, who are victims of slavery and people trafficking is disgusting. This has increased my desire to use my art as a prophetic voice - to speak out again social injustice and exploitation. It has reminded me of the resonance between the detritus from human activity found on the beach [jetsam, flotsam and litter, often it is unclear which one it is and it's source of origin unknown] and the arrival of migrants, refugees and victims of trafficking at the nearby ports.
Secondly, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings [C4 Tue 9pm 20-03-2012] which not only followed a couple of weddings but also a baptism and first communion, as well as contrasting the community of an Irish Gypsy town with Dale farm. I was pleasantly surprised by the programmes treatment, I had expected more sensationalism and a less sympathetic approach. The effect on the young children from the eviction was clear, as was the dignity with which the families walked of the site when eviction was inevitable. The sense of community, including settled and traveling gypsy families was remarkable, as was there sense of heritage. The contrast between the non gypsy neighbours was also striking, some were extremely hostile and racist: "They don't belong, they're not from round here, they're Irish." Yet in another town the neighbours had a high regard for the gypsy family and all turned out to watch the family set off in all their finery for the wedding. This was an interesting glimpse into the gypsy life, a migrant people with a strong heritage and close knit community. It feels as though this may also inform my current work as I keep being reminded of resonances between my current practice and migrant peoples etc.