CONCEPT, DESIGN & DIRECTION BY BRETT BAILEY
“Confronting us with the appalling realities of Europe’s colonial past – the stuff I definitely wasn’t taught at school – isn’t just some kind of guilt trip. It reminds us that most history is hidden from view; it reminds that Britain’s 21st-century ways of seeing are still strongly skewed by 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century colonial attitudes.” *****
– THE GUARDIAN
“terrible and magnificent… should run for several months so that all government ministers and scholars can attend.”
– LE SOIR, BRUSSELS
“It’s hugely powerful, deeply unsettling, but vital viewing.” *****
– THE EDINBURGH REPORTER
“How can one small exhibition about our colonial history hit harder than an entire year full of activities around the fiftieth anniversary of Congolese independence last year?”
– LA LIBRE BELGIQUE
A ‘human installation’ charting a river of racism that runs through the ethnographic displays, human zoos and scientific racism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the current dehumanizing policies towards immigrants in various parts of the world.
Through a series of installations, featuring performers who identify themselves as black, EXHIBIT B presents a catalogue of the atrocities that were committed – and concealed – by European powers in Africa in the name of ‘civilization’. It commemorates the men and women whose dignity was stripped away in this process.
The audience moves from one installation to another in silence, observed by the motionless performers.
Apart from ‘The Exhibit Quartet’ of Namibian singers that accompanies the production, all performers are sourced in the city where the performance is presented. The orientation of both the rehearsal and performance processes is on self-awareness, empowerment and transformation of the performers.
THE CONTROVERSY: following a sensationalistic article in The Guardian in August 2014 that referred to EXHIBIT B as a ‘human zoo’, a petition was launched in the UK to boycott the work. Protests at the opening of the performance in London in September resulted in the closure of the performance. The polemic spread to Paris in November / December 2014; but although there were large protests, the show went on. We believe that the controversy around EXHIBIT B is based on misunderstandings of the work by those who have not attended it. Documentation regarding this can be found in the video links and testimonies below, and in several articles in the side bar.
Apart from ‘The Exhibit Quartet’ from Namibia, performers generally come from the city where the work is being performed. So far over 150 performers have participated in EXHIBIT B.
THE EXHIBIT QUARTET: Avril Nuuyoma, Chris Nekongo, Melvin Dupont & William Mouers
Managing Director: Barbara Mathers
Technical Manager: Colin Legras
Company Manager: Berthe Tanwo Njole
Administrator: Helena Erasmus
Composer / arranger: Marcellinus Swartbooi
Thanks to: Raphael Noel and Nadège Jibassia, tech manager and company manager for several years
The final installation of EXHIBIT B is a portrait gallery, where the reflections of the performers on the themes of the work are displayed. Here are some of these from around the world.
At the end of the performance the spectators have an opportunity to defragment and write down their responses. We have thousands of these testimonies from several cities. Here are 80 from Edinburgh: unedited, unselected, just as they are. There are about another 500 in this batch.