The Cotton Exchange was built in 1865 to sell raw cotton picked by enslaved African labourers in the plantations of the Caribbean and American colonies to mill owners in Lancashire. Its completion coincided with the end of the American Civil War which marked the beginning of the end of slavery and the end of cotton being imported from the plantations of the south so no cotton was ever traded here.
In the installation, Equilibrium Wind, Thierry Oussou exhibited raw cotton from the plantation of the same name in his hometown in Benin, which he farms with workers from the local area, offering better conditions than the big plantations that dominate the country. This is the first cotton to be shown here, this time grown and picked in Africa by African people.
Benin is Africa’s biggest producer of cotton, but local people see very little benefit from the state controlled trade. Most of Benin’s cotton is sent to Bangladesh to be made into ‘fast fashion’ clothing for big brands, sold mostly in Europe and America. The flag, designed by Thierry using the red and green of the Benin flag with an image of the cotton plant, is a proclamation of independence and the artist creates a new flag in each country his work is shown, this one being made in the UK.
Equilibrium Wind is a co-commission with The Harris, Preston and is supported by Herbert Parkinson.
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