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Liverpool Cathedral unveils Slavery & Repentance exhibition as part of centenary

A photography exhibition which considers Liverpool Cathedral’s connections to slavery is being staged as part of the building’s centenary programme.

Slavery & Repentance, African Enslavement and the Church: Voices of the Unheard runs until April 6 in the Derby Transept at the Grade I listed sandstone landmark.

Cathedral leaders say they are embracing the opportunity for the venue to ‘confront its past and engage in meaningful dialogue with its local community’, with the exhibition shedding light on the building’s contested heritage monuments and structure financed through historic involvement in the enslavement of Africans.

The show features photographs and text which capture the reflections and insights of people of African heritage within both the Cathedral community and the wider city of Liverpool.

The Very Rev Dr Sue Jones, Dean of Liverpool, says: "Liverpool Cathedral is committed to recognizing its past links to the trade in enslaved Africans and endeavouring to lament and repair those connections.

“Through this photographic exhibition, we aim to encounter the diverse nature of our community, fostering dialogue and understanding as we strive for a better future together."

The exhibition comes from the work of the cathedral’s Racial Justice Working Group.

Jennie Taylor, racial justice officer for the Liverpool Diocese and Cathedral, explains: “While it’s a 20th Century building, we’ve done research into the original cathedral fund, and the vast majority of the people who invested in the cathedral’s fabric were from families with connections to slavery – many had had plantations in the West Indies from where they got their wealth.

Above: Part of the Slavery and Repentance exhibition. Top: Levi Tafari with his image in the exhibition at Liverpool Cathedral.

“It’s been quiet, and we don’t want it to stay quiet. We want to confront the past and work towards something that looks like repentance, and repair relationships. It’s a commitment to ensuring it doesn’t happen again.”

Among those captured on camera by photographer Zak Grant is poet Levi Tafari.

Speaking of his involvement, he says: “It’s to have a voice. Because people overlook us in many ways and pretend we’re not here. We need to be visible, to have a presence.

“Liverpool has the oldest continual Black community in Europe and a lot of people don’t realise that.”

The others involved in the project are Malik Al Nasir, Maleka Egeonu-Roby, Blue Saint, Rachel Lloyd, Alber Osei Owusu, Emeka Onuora, Claire Beejeraz, International Slavery Museum curator Laura Hesketh, Sonia Bassey, Josh Ramsden, Michelle Cox, Tracey Gore, Tayo Aluko and Margaret Simpson.

Liverpool Cathedral is marking the centenary of its consecration with a series of special events during 2024.

Slavery & Repentance, African Enslavement and the Church: Voices of the Unheard is at Liverpool Cathedral until April 6.


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