Jupiter’s Song, which opens on 15 July and runs until 30 October, will explore perspectives, exchange and humanising experiences, connecting visitors with NML collections and confronting the narratives to consider identity and how the experiences of the past manifest today.
The exhibition will include an installation, honouring the unnamed people that were enslaved who lost their lives on the Earle’s ship, the Unity c. 1770. It will also feature a special dance performance in response to the works on display.
“For the first time I’m beginning to understand my work as a part of the archive rather than something solely addressing it. Offering something alternative to the consistent perspectives of slave traders, captains, aristocracy, diplomats and middlemen. The loudest voice in those pages were the ones that were not present at all, those of the enslaved. How do we counteract the violence that archives perpetuate? And in what ways are we already doing it? Say Her Name, Say His Name. The importance of individual narrative is vital, the importance of naming is vital and what happens when those names don’t exist? Who do we become when we are only encountered at death?"
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Jupiter's Song an Overview
18 February 1764
Letter to Mrs. Earle from J. Denham, Genoa:
Denham congratulates Mrs. Earle on having a baby girl. The Duke of York has left Genoa and has written
to Lady Durrazzo. General pleasantries given. In the postscript it is mentioned that Mr. Hardman’s Black
boy, “Jupiter”, has been made a Catholic by Father Giammone.
Archival Transcript - EARLE/3/2/1-32
We know that Jupiter was identified as a male child, that he was owned, that he was made a
Christian. We encounter him during life as opposed to the time of his death. There's an
opportunity to Say His Name. Yet there’s loss in the recognition that we will never know his
Over the last year, artist Khaleb Brooks has conducted research at the International Slavery
Museum identifying ways to make archives accessible to public audiences. They focused this
research on the Middle Passage, where personal narratives and the lives lost were the most
difficult to capture.
Few records of Liverpool ship-owning partnerships and merchant businesses survive for the
period before the mid-nineteenth century. The Earle Collection comprises some seventeen
boxes of volumes and documents relating to the Earle family's mercantile business, estate and
personal affairs from the early eighteenth century to the 1930s.
A rare survival in the collection is the Log of the Unity, a log kept by captain Robert Norris
describing the day to day happenings aboard a slave ship. The ship departed from Liverpool in
1769, stopped in Helvoetsburg, Holland to pick up a cargo of cowrie shells and went onward to
Old Calabar where 425 people were enslaved aboard the ship.
Cowrie shells have been used as currency globally for nearly 3,000 years. In West Africa they
were known to be used as early as the 13th century. Their value in the region was quickly
recognised by slave- traders and were also used to purchase people.
In “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Oluadah Equiano, or Gustavas Vassa the African”,
Oluadah Equiano details the cultural and political practices of his village in Benin, describes the
middle passage, the horrors of enslavement and finally the purchasing of his freedom and
settling in London. In this account he mentions being sold for 172 cowrie shells.
Remembering Individual Lives
The loudest voices in the archives are those that aren’t found, the voices of a people enslaved.
During their research, Khaleb Brooks began to draw connections between the legacy of the
Atlantic Slave Trade and the current and continued fight for black lives. Considering the
relationship between black life and black death as well as the sinister relationship with an
enslaved person and commodified objects, the artist hopes to disrupt the archive through the
acknowledgement of individual lives.
Brooks’ was able to identify 9 people enslaved in the Log of Unity by mention of their death
which mostly occured during insurrections.
An example of this can be found here:
“the Slaves attempted to force up grating in the night with a design to murder the whites or
drown themselves but prevented by the watch. In the morning they confessed their intentions
and that the women as well as the men were determined if disappointed of cutting off the whites
to jump overboard but in case of being prevented by their Irons were resolved to burn the ship”.
“their obstinacy put me under the necessity of shooting the Ring leader”. [D/Earle/1/4]
9 glowing resin cowrie sculptures pay homage to these individuals. An additional 20 sculptures
may be found that include archival imagery and found metal from an abandoned dock in
The two tapestries on view in the installation are digital collages including open access archival
images, Brooks’ personal notes while researching, text from the archive and rare images of
black sailors shared by Jean- Francois Manicom. The men pictured are Krumen from Ivory
Coast employed by Britain on Ascension Island (circa 1895).
Additionally a collaborative video work featuring Llewelyn Mnguni offers a movement response
to the physical works drawing cross- cultural connections between South Africa and the UK.
“Jupiter’s Wave” produced by Anna Cardovillis has been created in response to the works in the
exhibition. The composition includes field recordings, sounds from NASA Voyager Space
recordings of Jupiter and Io, Jupiter’s Moon and samples from Kenyan band Mac & Party and
Benin group, Nestor Gansou et son groupe de Tchingounme are also featured. Liverpool by
Mac & Party discusses “a youthful fantasy of becoming rich and moving to England” by Yaseen
Mohamed, a Taraab musician born in the coastal city of Mombasa. Dèma Do Kanto by Nestor
Gansou ‘Gbégnon’ et son groupe folklorique de Tchingounmè traces a sacred traditional
Voudoun rhythm, including bells, muffled gota drums and water percussion. In ‘Yamin Lé’
Nestor Gansou speaks to poverty, money, wealth and abandonment. Tchinkoumé music from
the Savalou region, where the coast and hills meet, follows a sacred rhythmn traditionally used
to commemorate the dead, honouring their passing at burials.