French city of Nantes opens Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery

The Slavery abolition Memorial in the French city of Nantes opened its doors in March.  Nantes was one of France's leading slave ports and it made the city rich. But the city covered up its dark history for decades.

The city known for its art festival and its Mardi Gras-style carnival, has always boasted of its history as a great industrial city and colonial port. A collective silence covered up the fact that the prosperity of the city's great families, were built on the slave trade.

In the Spiegel Online curator Jouseau said, that for a long time there remained a "loss of memory," supported by a distorted look back at the period of the slave trade. It wasn't until the end of the 1980s that historians, organizations and local politicians began to experience a shift in thinking. The idea to firmly establish the history of slavery into the town's landscape came next. "It wasn't an easy path," Ayrault, the town mayor recalls. "But after initial resistance from reactionaries in the town, the majority of people and politicians ended up backing the plan."

The site of the memorial, the Quai de la Fosse, was the wharf where the slave ships moored before they departed for Africa. The installation comprises a sloping wall of opaque glass that cuts through the wharf's promenade, while a total of 1,710 panels laid into the sidewalk feature the names of slave ships.

In other panels quotations are engraved of black writers, activists and historical figures from diaspora.

The memorial is designed by the Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko and the American architect Julian Bonder. According to the designers the memorial is designed in a way visitors will experience the confinement felt by the slaves on board the slave ships.

According to Nantes officials the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery is unique in Europe.

Exlplore the memorial at the official website at http://memorial.nantes.fr/en/ 

The video of the opening ceremony on March 25th 2012

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