The Antislavery Knowledge Network: Community-Led Strategies for Creative and Heritage-Based Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

The Antislavery Knowledge Network offers the first extended effort to address slavery as a core development challenge in sub-Saharan Africa via innovative approaches from the arts and humanities that deliver community-engaged antislavery work. Focusing on the idea of "activated community memory," we champion the innovative use of heritage as a resource for social change. The network aims to demonstrate that participatory arts-based strategies, rooted in heritage, can empower Global South communities to play a central role in tackling contemporary slavery.

The Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 46 million slaves worldwide today. The UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include the target of ending slavery by 2030 and African states have recognised slavery as a key challenge to their economic and social development. An estimated 6.2 million people are enslaved in sub-Saharan Africa and slavery's ongoing presence impacts negatively on many SDG targets for Africa, include those relating to health, education, equality, decent work, and sustainable communities. This is a region experiencing rapid change, where demands for enhanced infrastructure stretch political and economic resources; rapid population growth and urbanisation threaten heritage; and unplanned development fails to address persistent patterns of poverty and deprivation that are strongly gendered. But development and antislavery policies aimed at African states have too often ignored the complex historical backdrop of slavery in the region and failed to foster community antislavery strategies that draw on heritage and memory. Slavery and antislavery interventions sit at an intersection of politically sensitive issues around history, sovereignty, citizenship, religion, mobility, and economic governance. As the Chief of UNESCO's History and Memory for Dialogue Section put it in 2015, the historical slave trade's "tenacious poison... paved the way for new forms of slavery that continue to affect millions."

Humanities-based research can provide innovative ways to navigate and address these intersecting issues through a focus on historical power dynamics and marginalised voices, and by partnering with artists, arts organisations and museums to invigorate development. Our community-based, regional focus harnesses this power of the arts and humanities to provide an alternative to the top-down focus of international legal agreements, trade and diplomacy, and intergovernmental initiatives. We build on "asset-based" and participatory approaches to development that recognize the transformative potential of existing cultural resources and heritage, and the value of co-designed and co-delivered work. We therefore move beyond the dominant paradigm of externally-designed interventions based on international rankings or standardised methods. Our approach tries to advance SDG target 8.7 (ending slavery) by strengthening antislavery strategies that re-set the relationship between development initiatives and local communities.

We will launch the network with an initial programme of three pilots in African countries shaped by historical slavery that are also sites of contemporary enslavement: Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All three pilots will develop models for what works in different national and local contexts, via different methods of in-country partner collaboration. They will therefore lay the groundwork for a structured commissioning phase inviting new projects, of varying sizes and around three themes, that develop our core interest in establishing the value of the arts and humanities to challenging slavery. The commissioned projects will continue pioneering new participatory approaches to knowledge partnership that use arts and humanities methods. Together, the pilot and commissioned projects connect the long history of slavery, antislavery's unfinished work, and the symbols of heritage to current antislavery challenges.

Planned Impact

It would be hard to overstate the benefits of reducing vulnerability to enslavement. Our network will help some of the world's most at-risk people, with tools for communities that build antislavery resilience via arts-based engagement. As we move towards the Sustainable Development Goal of ending slavery by 2030, we hope to measure a broad four-fold impact. Firstly, there will be a greater sharing of arts and humanities-based techniques in the field of antislavery and development. We aim to unify a fragmented field. By joining together our research expertise and our partners' strategic frontline efforts, we can provide the platforms and methods for civil society organisations to deliver evidence-based arts-based programming that builds upon other organisations' past experiments and efforts. This will lead, secondly, to increased efficiency in the design and accomplishment of arts-based interventions, leading to better results in building antislavery resilience. In turn, these results will begin to answer the question of how to bring successful techniques to scale (as at present the work of prevention, liberation and reintegration reaches a very small fraction of the world's enslaved population). Third, as we foster a unified understanding of effective antislavery techniques, this will institute a virtuous cycle and enable economic growth. Most the world's slaves are in developing countries, and this enslavement supports countries' impoverishment through a vicious cycle of exploitation, low productivity, and profits flowing to criminals. Fourth, this antislavery development - and demonstrated success in community-engaged projects - will lead to increased resource for new projects, since many potential funders are waiting for a demonstration of effectiveness and the ability to scale.

Our key impact stakeholders in this process are:

* Civil society. We partner with local arts, heritage, education and antislavery organisations in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as major international NGOs who work in the region. We aim to shift the politics of antislavery campaigning towards a community-led approach by showing that the process of recovering and recontextualising marginalised heritage can fuel antislavery resilience.

* Policy makers. Rhetorical commitments to antislavery in our focus countries have not improved their implementation of international norms. Although slavery inhibits socio-economic development, increases human suffering, lowers quality of life and denies basic human rights, the issue remains under-resourced by ODA spending. Our evidence-base will show the value of arts and humanities-based community projects for contributing to the achievement of key SDG targets (including 8.7).

* The heritage and education sector. The network will encourage the prioritization of community-engaged and rights-aware heritage interpretation and management, by using lessons from slavery's history to tackle modern slavery. For UK-based heritage communities, our network will also advance exhibition content about the legacies of our colonial and trading history.

Working with these stakeholder groups as our partners, we hope to evidence key specific impacts by the end of the project, including:

1. New arts and humanities projects focused on achieving key SDG targets that draw from our methods, theories and examples.

2. Increased research capabilities for arts and humanities contributions to development studies.

3. An advancement in the debate over whether cultural activities are important to development work.

4. A shift on the part of our NGO and policy partners towards factoring in creative and cultural programmes to their work.

5. A shift on the part of our antislavery NGO partners to integrating ideas, suggestions and solutions from enslaved people themselves.

6. Enhanced institutional memory in the third sector.

7. Changes in the way that development agencies think about impact.

Publications

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Yole!Africa (2019) Catalogue Transcend (Magazine)

 
Title 'Seaside Communities' and 'Kid Miners' 
Description Two short films produced by 'We Own TV', an arts collective based in Freetown, Sierra Leone. 'Seaside Communities' a short film of approximately 13 minutes, explored the hitherto unsold story of child exploitation and forced labour in fishing communities in Sierra Leone; 'Kid Miners' a six-minute short, deals with child exploitation in gold mining in Sierra Leone. These films are the outputs of a pilot project AKN funded in Sierra Leone, working in collaboration with 'We Own TV'. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The two films were launched in Hull in November 2018. Plans are underway to screen them in Sieera Leone at a number of different locations, using a kind of travelling screen and generator. The films will form the basis of local discussions about slavery and trafficking, all of which will be filmed and used for further outreach work in Sierra Leone. 
 
Title Exhibition: 
Description Exhibition to present research and findings as part of the Ghana pilot project. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The exhibition will form a part of an undergraduate module at the Department of Archaology and Heritage at the University of Ghana, Legon. The exhibition will travel to Cape Coast and be located in Elmina from March 2019. A strategy will measure impact in public spaces through feedback forms. 
 
Title Congo photo and artwork database 
Description Large archive of Congo photographs plus new community produced art by local partners in response to the historical photographs 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Education and awareness among Congolese community members 
 
Description Ghana pilot project for the Antislavery Knowledge Network 
Organisation University of Ghana
Country Ghana 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Mapping Slavery Heritage, Community Engagement and Development in Ghana: Co-development of aims and objectives of research as part of the project team; input into the design of research project, methods for data collection; participation in launch workshop.
Collaborator Contribution The University of Ghana is the lead partner in this project and has led the development of aims and objectives of research, design of research project, and methods for data collection. A launch of the project including a workshop with other academics from University of Ghana was held on 19th February. The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board has played an active role in discussions around the project, identifying the aims and objectives of the research, and helping to identify key routes for future impact.
Impact The project began with the Network + award (The Antislavery Knowledge Network: Community-Led Strategies for Creative and Heritage-Based Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa) in October 2017, however there has been a delay in commencing fieldwork due to the need to conclude legal agreements with partners. There have therefore not been any outputs or outcomes from the research during the current reporting period. The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, involving participants from Archaeology, Heritage Studies and Politics (Policy Studies).
Start Year 2017
 
Description "The Grand Challenge of Sustainability" conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Convention keynote from grant work: "Engaged Research for Ending Slavery."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description AHTV and AHRC Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A masterclass on how arts and humanities researchers can engage with television practitioners, such as commissioners and producers, to create programmes based on or related to their research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Common Histories: A Workshop on Slavery and the Creative Arts, October 21st 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a workshop organised as a collaboration between the AHRC 'Translating Cultures' theme, Centre for the Study of International Slavery and UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts are delighted to present a workshop on coming to terms with our common histories. The workshop involved discussion of common histories of slavery, the transatlantic slave trade, colonialism and the impacts of the British Empire. It addressed difficulties surrounding modern discourses on these shared histories where in many cases, places and people who continue to be enriched by the wealth created and maintained through slavery and its legacies find it uncomfortable to engage in accepting and addressing implications today of these shared histories.
The workshop explored the ways we can deploy the Arts as a way of creating new spaces and opportunities to remove the discomfort of historical and modern injustice and inequalities that are a result of slavery, colonialism - and the reluctance to discuss these.
The workshop was led by Professor Kofi Anyidoho (University of Ghana), Chirikure Chirikure (Zimbabwe), Tawona Sitholé (poet in residence, University of Glasgow) and Gameli Tordzro (Pan African Arts Scotland).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Decolonising the Archive: Congo Antislavery Visual Culture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussed the Congo Antislavery Visual Culture project and specifically the work Yole!Africa had produced
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Exhibition launch - 'Historical and Modern Forms of Slavery in Ghana: Evidences from the Volta and Northern Regions' 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact This was the launch of an exhibition relating to research undertaken as part of the Antislavery knowledge Network Pilot Project. Around 200 people attended, mainly students from the University of Ghana, Legon, but also heritage sector professionals and practitioners, postgraduates and staff from other departments. Feedback was given via a notice board with post-it notes for attendees to record their reaction to the exhibition. Several of the attendees reported that the exhibition raised their awareness of slavery from an archaeological perspective and made them think about the subject differently.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Human Rights in the 21st Century 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference keynote from grant work: "Tackling Modern Slavery."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Indonesian Scholars International Convention 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Convention keynote from grant work: "Global Modern Slavery."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Ingenious Antislavery Ideas 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Ingenuity18 Ideas Summit: keynote talk and afternoon workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Launch event for Ghana project on mapping slavery heritage, February 19th 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A workshop was held at University of Ghana on 19th February 2018 as a launch of the project to map slavery heritage in the country. This project is a phase 1 pilot project and is part of the Antislavery Knowledge Network, funded through the Network + award (PI - Balch), and is led by Dr Wazi Apoh and Dr Benjamin Kankpeyeng (Department of Archaeology and Heritage Studies, University of Ghana, Legon). The workshop brought together academics from across the University of Ghana (including from sociology, history, politics) to discuss the plans to map and exhibit a new database of slavery heritage sites, and community engagement with those sites, from across Ghana. The discussion provided very important insights into new forms of contemporary enslavement that are prevalent in Ghana and connections between the work of the project team which will explore reactions and reflections on historical forms of slavery across the country.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Launch of 'Seaside Communities' and 'Kid Miners' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Launch/screening of two films that came out of one of our pilot projects in Sierra Leone and produced by 'We Own TV', an arts collective based in Freetown. The screening attracted an audience of c. 40 people, including members of the local Freetown Society. The event consisted of a screening introduced by Lansana Mansary, the driving forced behind 'We Own TV' and the producer of 'Seaside Communities'. The screening was followed by a general discussion, the whole event lasing approximately 90 minutes.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Mapping and Mobilising Slavery Heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact This was an international workshop hosted by the Centre for the Study of International Slavery as part of the Phase 1 activities of the Antislavery Knowledge Network (AKN)
The morning session was devoted to our project on Ghana's slavery heritage, while the afternoon included an expert panel which reflected on connections with the UK and curatorial perspectives on material culture and West Africa in the collections of National Museums Liverpool.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/politics/research/research-projects/akn/akn-blog/Workshop-2018/
 
Description Panel on Slavery on and its Legacies at SOLAS 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The talk was part of a series of panels on various aspects of development, and with Charles Forsdick we presented on Slavery and its legacies in relation to AKN and its work. About 20 people attended, from different organisations, who were part of the conversation on how development work can better benefit those who are part of the communities experiences developmental challenges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Partnerships and Knowledge Exchange for Ending Slavery 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Australian Research Council workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Public Lecture: Re-Memory: An African Poet and The Burden of History, by Professor Kofi Anyidoho, University of Ghana, October 20th 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This lecture-performance was anchored in the realization that we need to turn to the language and techniques of poetry for some of the most profound, most memorable articulations of the complex and often deeply embedded dimension of slavery, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
The lecture, accompanied by a duo performing Ghanaian musical contributions, was a poetic journey into SoulTime, focusing in part on three of the most powerful instruments and symbols of enslavement: The Slave Fort/Castle, The Middle Passage and The Slave Boat.
To properly come to terms with the Burden of History loaded into these Monuments of Enslavement, the audience were are offered a guided tour across Time and Space through the refracturing prizm of selected poems by three African-heritage poets: Haki Madhubuti (in Culture as Motion), Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang (in Cape Coast Castle), and NourbeSe Philip (in Zong).
This journey into SoulTime closed with a reading-performance of "Gathering the Harvest Dance", Anyidoho's own poem located at the still-centre of the symbolic historical storm encoded into the Elmina Slave Castle in Ghana. The lecture and the musical accompaniment led to a discussion about the role of the arts and humanities in interpreting and dealing with traumatic and tragic histories. The experience demonstrated very clearly to the audience the power of poetry and art and its context in Africans' perspectives, understanding and interpretations of history, the transatlantic slave-trade, and how these artistic and creative endeavours contribute to the healing process. Professor Anyidoho expressed an interest in acting as part of the International Steering Group for the AHRC project - the 'Antislavery Knowledge Network'. In the subsequent discussions there were also plans made with attendees from National Museums Liverpool to coordinate activities around visits of researchers and academics that are scheduled to happen in Phase 1 of the network.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Soroptimist International and UN Association 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Public talk from grant project: "How We End Contemporary Slavery."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Transdisciplinary Research for Ending Slavery 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Yale University, Gilder Lehrman Center, workshop with the Modern Slavery Working Group
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Trinity Church and Quarry Lab "See Here" series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Public dialogue from grant work: "Voices of Freedom: Modern Slavery."
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Yole!Africa: Film 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Yole!Africa (a community arts organisation based in the Congo) worked with the Alice Seeley Harris Archive to reactivate historical memory and create an artistic film showcasing the impact the project had on the local community. The film tells the story of the project, and some of the photographs from the Archive: some were exhibited in the public marketplace in Goma, and others were displayed in a museum exhibition to teach citizens about the history of slavery and abolitionist activity in that area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Yole!Africa: Student Photography Project 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact As part of a partnership working with local communities in Goma, Yole!Africa worked with students to produce a series of photographs inspired by some of the images from the Alice Seeley Harris archive. Some of these historic images were used to reactivate historical memory and recover the lost history of slavery and abolitionist activity in the Congo. Some of these photos were included in another output for this project, Catalogue Transcend.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019