London, Sugar and Slavery

11 March 2011Posted by Paul


The Museum commissioned Paul to respond to the Hibbert portrait by placing a ‘re-constructed portrait’ of
the radical activist Robert Wedderburn alongside.

Detail of Portrait of Robert WedderburnDetail of George Hibbert

Robert Wedderburn was born in Jamaica in 1762. His father, James Wedderburn, owned a large sugar plantation on the island. His mother, Rosanna, was an enslaved African on the plantation. When she was pregnant, Wedderburn sold her to Lady Douglas, stipulating that the child that she bore should be free from birth. Robert Wedderburn was brought up on the Douglas’ estate and later recalled that as a child he witnessed both his mother and grandmother being whipped. He became a sailor, arriving in London in 1778. Wedderburn preached simultaneous revolution of the poor in Europe and enslaved Africans in the West Indies, being jailed many times during his campaign to end slavery.

Paul's portrait includes contemporary analogies and references to Wedderburn's achievements including an axe laid on the floor of No 1 Warehouse in Docklands, the only surviving building in London of the transatlantic slave trade.

Extract from Axe Laid to the Root