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Sold Down the River

Sold Down the River by Tony Forbes


Painting, Sold Down the River , by Tony Forbes. Tony Forbes wrote about his painting:

_I really love this city. I was born in St Pauls and grew up on a white council estate called Southmead. There are things about Bristol Im proud of, but…

The Festival of the Sea in 1996 was an example of how some of the institutions that run the city have failed to understand the people of Bristol. They celebrated Bristols maritime history and ignored slavery. The centrepiece was the launch of the replica of John Cabots ship, the Matthew. His voyage in 1497 opened the way to the genocide of Native Americans and colonisation.
This festival, encouraged by the Council, funded by big business and hyped by our media, was a slap in the face to the black community and an insult to the intelligence and sensitivity of many Bristolians. It was the weekend that Bristol broke my heart.

The figure on the raft is a portrayal of the way I feel about how I have been treated by authority.The people I grew up with in Southmead have treated me as an equal regardless of colour: its all about respect. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher increased the powers of the police.The new sus laws were used against the white working-class as well as ethnic minorities.Black and white kids from the estates were picked up, and beaten up in the back of police vans or taken miles away from home and dumped – some policemen even used to defecate in your shoes and then tell you to walk home.

The Suspension Bridge is about Clifton. Clifton has all the privileges. The people I painted on the bridge are the ones who control and influence the city. I feel they dont give a damn about what happens to anyone else.

When I look at Colstons statue I just think of dead children. I can handle the fact that the statue is there, but theres nothing to say he was a slave trader.It was erected in 1895 by the people of Bristol. Over a century later, isnt it time for Bristolians to express their feelings about todays multi-cultural society?

What I am trying to show in the picture are some of the things I dont want to see happening to the next generation of kids, black or white. We have to live together.

Artists Statement, 1999._

Creator: Tony Forbes

Date: 1999

Copyright: Copyright BCC Museum

Object ID:K5894

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