Phantom Images

Hannah Verster (Huron)

This artwork attempts to encapsulate the Phantoms of the Past Project. The painting on the left depicts the last site of memory on our walking tour of Bath, England: William Beckford’s tower. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, William Beckford was the wealthiest man in England. He was an enslaver, and his wealth was derived from plantations in Jamaica. Beckford built himself this tower in order to house his expansive collections of art.

The painting is positioned intentionally on the canvas in order to decentre Beckford’s view of England. The butterflies leaving Beckford’s tower were inspired by Anthony Head’s iMigration 2 art installation in Bath Abbey, which features countless paper butterflies suspended in the abbey’s rafters. The butterflies in my piece have escaped from Beckford’s tower, symbolizing the goal of the Phantom’s of the Past project to illuminate the lives of countless Africans whom people like Beckford held enslaved.


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