Slavery exhibition 'shows oppression Derry knows of'

Having survived an interesting encounter with a venomous snake in South Carolina, amateur photographer John Bradshaw launched his slavery exhibition at the Tower Museum on Wednesday.

John is a retired doctor from west Cork and in 2002 he travelled through several southern American states as well as to the West Indies to document the history of the Atlantic slave trade.

"I wanted to capture and document an important part of history," said John. "It was something that I enjoyed doing - although I almost got bitten by a water moccasin snake whilst taking pictures in Mansfield Plantation in South Carolina."

John, who lives just outside Chichester in the south of England, first came to Derry two years ago to launch a photographic exhibition on Irish history at the Workhouse Museum in the Waterside.

"I'm so happy to be back here in Derry because it's a city that really appreciates history," said John. "My new exhibition is very different to my previous one and I hope that people come along and give it a go."

John's latest exhibition is titled "Enslaved" and with its 24 images it aims at giving a concise explanation and insight into the plight of slavery during the height of the slave trade.

"Some of the stories I came to read and hear about were truly harrowing," he said. "These people were captured and taken to foreign lands. The vast majority of them never saw their homeland again and when they did reach their final destination they were often treated terribly."

It was whilst holidaying in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia during the 1970s that John first came across his first plantation.

"It was a sugar plantation and as I walked around it I got a real sense of what it must have been like for the slaves. When I retired I knew I had to do something on this, it had been bugging me for quite some time. Although slavery was abolished in America a long time ago I was really taken a back when I returned to the area in 2002 to see how even to this day Afro-Americans are still treated terribly because of the colour of their skin."

John insisted that although the subject matter of his exhibition originates from Africa and the United States, he believes that the theme of oppression is something that the people of Derry will be able to tap into.

"We all know the history of Derry and what happened here. Although the situation here is very different there is a shared sense of oppression that I am positive people will pick up on."

"Enslaved" opened in Larne last summer and after Derry John hopes to take it to Cork, Dublin and Armagh.

"I think it's something that the people of Ireland will really appreciate. It's taken me some time to put together but I'm really happy with how it has turned out."

The Mayor of Derry Colum Eastwood attended the launch of "Enslaved". Councillor Eastwood said that although the exhibition is to do with the past, there are still lessons to be learned for the future.

"I think John's collection of photos are simply fantastic," said Derry's First Citizen. "Some of what he has photographed is just striking.

"I think that it's important for us to realise that although the Atlantic slave trade has been consigned to the history books we must take steps to eradicate modern day slavery all over the world."

For further information on "Enslaved" contact the Tower Museum on 028 7137 2411.