Does slavery exist today? Artists Patricia Kaersenhout and Jimini Hignett link historical slavery with the prostitution of women as a modern form of slavery.
Tropen museum 2013/2014
Mantle of Love
In Mantle of Love, Patricia Kaersenhout examines the ways in which the existence of slavery is denied and glossed over. She experienced how the subject of slavery is ignored in schools. That made her suspicious of a historiography in which her ancestors’ perspective is not taken into consideration. She identified a pattern that leans on a myriad of myths and half-truths in which slavery and oppression are continually covered over by a mantle of love.

Mantle of Love explores two of these myths. The first is a biblical story. When Cham found his father Noah naked, he did not look away like his brothers, who covered him with a cloth, a cloak of love. Cham’s descendants were cursed and doomed to live as the slaves of slaves. This story was later turned around to justify the slave trade: Cham was supposedly turned black by the curse, so that Blacks would henceforth be destined for slavery. The second myth is a legend about the origins of the word fuck. According to the story, because the English population had been decimated by plague, the English king ordered his subjects to breed new children. Inscribed on the sign that they hung on their doors were the letters F.U.C.K. (Fornication Under Command of the King). These myths are part of the work that Kaersenhout created for Black & White: a carpet of 100m2 made from red women’s clothing to symbolise the oppression of women.

Mulier Sacer
Jimini Hignett made a video installation in collaboration with women who have escaped enforced prostitution in the Netherlands. Their need to remain anonymous makes these portraits all the more powerful. Other images show crime scenes surrounded by the everyday life of the city.

The title of the work, Mulier Sacer, means the disposable woman: a person who has so few rights left in society that the wrongs that are done to her are no longer seen as crimes.
Stories of two of the women, retold by actors, bear witness to the way the trade and exploitation of women ties in with larger economic and political processes such as economic inequality, privatisation and corruption. It is from their position on the margins of society and yet also at its heart, that these women can shed light on the wider connections that hardly receive any attention in the prostitution debate.

 exhibition view Tropenmuseum   photography Gert Jan van Rooij 
 Exhibition view Handle with Care   photography Gert Jan van Rooij 
 Exhibition view Handle with Care   photography Gert Jan van Rooij 
 performance at the opening   photography Gert Jan van Rooij 
  Handle with care /Tropenmuseum   photography Gert Jan van Rooij 
 detail Mantle of love   photography Gert Jan van Rooij