s The Freedom Centrepiece 2007 - Hull Museums Collections

The Freedom Centrepiece 2007

freedom centrepiece

The Freedom Centrepiece 2007

In 2006 Hull Museums commissioned silversmith Jocelyn Burton to produce a major silver centrepiece. This was part of the commemorations for the bi-centenary of the abolition of the slave trade in 2007. This will be a lasting testament to freedom and will hopefully be around for the tercentenary. The centrepiece was funded by the Alderman Rupert Alec-Smith Fund and the Wilberforce 2007 Programme.

Three leading silversmiths were commissioned to produce a forward looking design that concentrated on the theme of 'freedom'. A panel selected Burton's as the winning one. The panel was made up of experts in silver, slavery, art and community affairs.

Winning design

Freedom Centrepiece 2007Jocelyn's winning design is based upon the shape of the cowry shell. The cowry shell was used extensively in West Africa as currency and played a major part in the slave trade. The shape is also meant to be representative of a ship's sail in the wind, projecting us forwards into the future.

Burton was inspired by a quote from William Wilberforce, on Tuesday 12th May 1789, when he declared in the House of Commons as part of his speech calling for the Total Abolition of Slavery, "I would never rest...I found myself impelled to go boldly forward."

The base of the design is ebonised wood, with silver chasing representing the four elements - earth, water, fire and air. This represents the universe, to which all of humankind belongs. The ebony and the cowry shell are also representative of West Africa. Beneath this is a design of broken chains, representing the abolition of the slave trade. Around the base are also names of many different freedom fighters through history, including William Wilberforce.

The Freedom Centrepiece, funded by the Alderman Rupert Alec-Smith Fund and the Wilberforce 2007 Programme, was unveiled at the Guildhall on 5th June 2007 by the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Dr Navin Chandra Ramgoolan.