Liverpool artwork of the day – Friday August 3 2007. ‘La Bouche du Roi’ an artwork by Romuald Hazoumé at Maritime Museum until September 2 2007
Multi-media artwork based on the Transatlantic Slave Trade 4th floor of Maritime Museum
Merseyside Maritime Museum is hosting La Bouche du Roi, an immersive multi-media installation by Bénin-born artist Romuald Hazoumé. The contemporary work will be on show from 4 August until 2 September 2007 as part of the year-long events programme marking the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the British Slave Trade. La Bouche du Roi is being toured to five venues through the British Museum’s Partnership UK programme
Hazoumé uses a variety of found objects, video and photographs to form the body of the artwork. Haunting sounds and evocative smells emanate from the piece providing a powerful experience.
Literally translated La Bouche du Roi means ‘the mouth of the King’ and refers to the port in Bénin from which many slaves were transported. The floor-based artwork is made up of several different elements, each with its own significance to the slave trade. The main body of the work consists of 304 ‘masks’ made from black plastic petrol cans, with smaller masks representing women and children. Empty Liverpool-brewed Gin bottles, cowrie shells, spices and mirrors serve as examples of goods taken to Africa to exchange for slaves.
The arrangement of the ‘masks’ refers to the suggested positioning of slaves shown in abolitionist propaganda from 1788, following a decision by Parliament to restrict the number of Africans that a ship could carry across the Atlantic. The campaign featured a diagram of the Liverpool owned Slave Ship Brookes showing the ship carrying 454 Africans, which was its regulated number. Abolitionists used this image to expose the appallingly cramped conditions below deck.
Brookes sailed in 1788 from Liverpool to the Gold Coast in West Africa, then back to the West Indies carrying not the regulatory 454, but a staggering 609 enslaved Africans. The journey took 49 days, during which 19 Africans perished.
In September the work moves onto Bristol, then Newcastle and London.