Bringing art back into Dr Martin Luther King Jr Building (MLK), National Museums Liverpool (NML) is delighted to announce Migrant Artists Mutual Aid (MaMa) as the creatives for the first in a series of pop-up exhibitions planned for the much-loved venue. Running from 4 March to 5 June 2022, this exhibition will drive a series of thrilling and captivating pop-up displays that will run throughout 2022 / 2023.
Providing a platform for multiple voices in developing the overall vision of the Waterfront Transformation Project, the pop-up exhibitions will directly feed into plans for the transformation of ISM, the storytelling, interpretation, and the wider historic waterfront. The starting point and highlight of the Waterfront Transformation Project will be the redevelopment of the MLK Building sitting at the heart of the re-imagined International Slavery Museum. The MLK Building will have a dedicated entrance leading directly to new galleries and installations exploring the transatlantic slave trade, its legacies, and other contemporary forms of slavery and human rights issues, closely linked to activity spaces, and quieter areas for research and reflection.
This first artist led installation has been made possible by funding from Liverpool City Region Combined Authority as part of Mayor Steve Rotheram’s Race Equality Programme – a project that seeks to tackle race equality across the city region. As part of the £55,000 funding from LCRA, which included enhanced virtual classroom resources, this pop-up exhibition will explore the many profound and important stories around the transatlantic slave trade and its legacies; and what role Liverpool played in this historic slavery.
Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region said:
“Historically, Liverpool played a prominent and shameful role in the slave trade and its legacy is still being grappled with today. Learning from the mistakes of the past is essential to stop them being repeated and, in that regard, the International Slavery Museum is an invaluable resource for local schools and visitors to our region alike.
“It is depressingly clear that there is still much work to be done to tackle racial inequality in this country. Last year, I launched a Race Equality Programme to take proactive and positive action to level the playing field and help our region to overcome bigotry and discrimination.
“These days, our region’s diversity is one of our great strengths. It enriches our culture, economy, and the very fabric of our society. MaMa’s pop-up at the Martin Luther King Jr. Building is a fantastic embodiment of that.”
Founded in 2011, MaMa is a cross national network of women, mothers, migrants, artists, academics, and activists who work together to support members who are seeking sanctuary, and campaign for justice in the migration system. Their pop-up exhibition will be a visually strong and immersive experience, as well as a platform for engagement discussion and debate, MaMa plan to include music, performance poetry and workshops. The participation of communities in the development will focus on the long and deep relationships that MaMa has as a community of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with groups across the city.
MaMa will work with National Museums Liverpool as well as with vulnerable and marginalised participants in Liverpool, developing their artistic response to Liverpool and its role in historic slavery through an immersive soundscape of music and spoken word augmented by visual elements taken from the museum’s rich archival material and newly created artistic works.
Jennifer Verson, founder of MaMa comments:
“At the top of the stairs on the wall as you enter the International Slavery Museum is an engraving with a quote by William Prescott “They will remember that we were sold, but not that we were strong. They will remember that we were bought, but not that we were brave” and the clear simple message “We Will Remember”.
“Since 2014, Migrant Artist Mutual Aid has performed at this very spot. Our diverse choir has welcomed many school groups coming to the Museum – some learning about the violence and brutality of the transatlantic slave trade for the first time. Over the years, I have spoken to visitors, teachers and children who have seen the Migrant Artists Mutual Aid choir at ISM and have been inspired by this experience – coupled with their visit to the museum – to work for justice and equality in our society today. We hope to motivate many more through this pop-up at the MLK building.”
Igniting ideas and action towards an anti-racist society and inviting new conversations and fostering old and new relationships, these interventions will build momentum towards the aspiring transformation plan for the Waterfront and the International Slavery Museum. As a platform for multiple voices, this series of exhibitions will help develop our vision for the museum through exciting new ideas and experimental approaches to how we interpret our past and look forward to the future.