Slavery explored through sound and movement

Slavery and sound event

A University of Southampton historian has collaborated with a group of performers to stage a unique event examining slavery and its legacies.

Dr Christer Petley worked with renowned vocalist Elaine Mitchener to create a piece of work that blended sound and movement, drawing on his research into slavery in the 18th century sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

The performance, called Sweet Tooth, was staged at the Snape Proms 2016 in Suffolk. Musicians Jason Yarde, Sylvia Hallett and Mark Sanders created a soundscape to accompany Mitchener’s vocals and Dr Petley’s research on plantation slavery.

Dr Petley, Senior Lecturer in History at Southampton, said:

We wanted to bring to life the historical world of plantation slavery, and encourage audiences to think about enslavement, forced movement and suffering – historical issues that did a lot to shape our world today.

He continues: “As a historian, I would normally present my work in books, papers or lectures – but this project has given me the scope to explore new, challenging ways of getting my work across to a new audience. Elaine has very much taken a workshop approach, letting the piece evolve through people from different disciplines coming together to share ideas.”

Aspects of Sweet Tooth were developed and presented in an experimental performance in June at Turner Sims Southampton, on the University’s Highfield Campus.

Dr Petley is also working on an upcoming book, Slavery and Revolution, which will explore the harsh conditions on the plantations, as well as the slaveholders who profited from sugar and slavery.

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