Black Mary; or Molly, 'Princess of Wales'

The two-channel video installation titled Black Mary; or Molly, ‘Princess of Wales’ (2016), explores the life of Mary Prince, a Bermuda-born “West Indian” slave whose c.1831 narrative, written down from “her own words”, was instrumental in furthering Britain’s abolitionist movement. This print-based work draws upon early 19th century toy theatricals and their associated printed ephemera, as a site for addressing the “performance” of Creole identity in the circum-Atlantic context through conflation with historical portrait traditions. Mary's story is performed on a replica toy theatre stage using live footage and animated printed / paper components. While the white family members in this "portrait" remain as lifeless card cut-outs, frozen in place and silenced, the black slave girl, Mary, comes alive to theatrically recite her story through song in five Acts. Appearing as a young girl “still innocent of her 'condition' as a slave”, she recounts her painful narrative of abuse at the hands of her owners, and of her struggle to escape slavery, while role-playing with a surrogate doll. A large-scale video projection positioned directly across the room includes a collection of ‘portrait heads’ - witnesses from various time periods who emerge from the darkness to remark on the staged performance. Their comments either confirm or challenge the 'received' history of Prince's slave narrative.  




Black Mary
Black Mary video installation
Black Mary video installation
Black Mary video installation
Black Mary video installation
Black Mary video installation
Toy theatre (detail)
Print sheet for Black Mary project
Black Mary print sheet
Black Mary play book

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