“To be free is very sweet”
When one woman tells of her extraordinary journey to overcome the brutality of slavery, she becomes a beacon for the British anti-slavery movement.
Born into slavery in the British colony of Bermuda, Mary Prince went on to become an auto-biographer and champion of freedom. Her book had an electrifying effect on the abolitionist movement helping to free many Africans in bondage. Through theatre, song, music, drumming and dance, this masterpiece of Black British theatre is inspired by the storytelling traditions of the West African griot.
Suitable for ages 11+
Running time: 60mins plus 20mins Q&A
For school bookings please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Prince was born into enslavement on the British owned Island of Bermuda 1788? As with many enslaved people exact records of births and deaths can be difficult to come by and Mary’s birth year is an estimation. She was the daughter of a House slave Sue and a Sawyer – nothing unusual there – but through Mary’s narrative we are given rare insights into her life as an enslaved person. We learn of moments of love, conflict and some of the intricacies of chattel slavery that are seldom heard.
When Mary’s narrative was first published it was the harsh realities the brutality of enslavement the treatment and dehumanisation of people that shocked readers. Also it was the fact of a woman speaking of flogging, of work that wasn’t just back breaking but life taking. She gives us her words and thoughts of how it felt to be enslaved, owned bought and sold.
Mary’s story gives us the voice of the ‘chattel’, those voices that are often silent, silenced, ignored of spoken for. Many who read her book could now picture enslaved people more fully as people with feelings, hopes and dreams. It also again highlighted Britain’s role in enslavement, often today many of us think of slavery as an American experience, hearing stories of the deep south, and forget that Britain played a major role.
Mary’s words help to remind us.
Kuumba Nia Arts is an Black led Oxford-based touring theatre company that produces and develops work based on traditional African theatrical forms and aesthetics. In Swahili, Kuumba means ‘creativity’ whilst Nia can be translated as ‘intention’ or ‘purpose’. Their mission and purpose is to fuse contemporary creative performance styles with historical African forms that have been passed to the diaspora to create a theatre that breaks new ground. Creating unique productions of startling authenticity that inform, surprise and entertain.