The Bermuda National Gallery recently featured “Black Mary; or Molly ‘Princess of Wales’”—a two channel video installation inspired by the real-life Mary Prince (who told her story in The History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself) and exhibited at the gallery in 2016. Here are excerpts of the article and interview with the Barbadian artist.
The story of Mary Prince and her impactful contribution to the British abolitionist movement has been a focal point of Joscelyn Gardner’s work for many years. The Barbadian artist, whose mixed media artworks are rooted in her (white) Creole heritage, explores the influence of colonial and patriarchal systems on Caribbean history.
As we head into the Cup Match holiday this weekend and the emancipation celebrations that it marks, we look back at Black Mary; or Molly ‘Princess Of Wales’, a two channel video installation exhibited at the Bermuda National Gallery in 2016, in which Joscelyn brings to life the story of Mary Prince and examines both historical and contemporary viewpoints of her narrative.
Legislation was passed in Bermuda earlier this year renaming the second day of Cup Match Mary Prince Day in recognition of her pivotal role in the abolition of slavery, both in Bermuda and across the Caribbean. On the eve of this historic moment, we caught up with Joscelyn to reflect on Black Mary and discuss how, through her artwork, she attempts to “speak the unspeakable, retrieving atrocities that lie buried in our collective memory in order to reconcile the past with the present and move towards a metaphorical healing of wounds.”
BNG: When did you first come across The History Of Mary Prince and how did it impact you?
JG: I first read Mary Prince’s 1831 slave narrative in 2002. It is the only extant published narrative by a female slave that relates to the British Caribbean so it was an important document for my research on Creole women from the period. Mary’s story, “in her own words”, is possibly as close as you can come to gleaning what life would have been like for an enslaved woman at this time.
Mary Prince had a series of five different owners over her lifetime before she won her freedom. The hardship that she faced and the torture she, and the other slaves whom she lived with, endured at the hands of her owners is difficult to encounter. Once you have read it, you don’t easily forget it. Her voice made an important contribution to the abolitionist movement in Britain and it has been part of my work for several years. [. . .]
Click HERE to read the [full] interview on Stories, the BNG blog or go to https://www.bermudanationalgallery.com/an-ode-to-mary-prince/