Traces of the Trade
Here and Over There Exhibition of photographs by Christian Leray
Both the black slave-trade and systemic slavery have left scars that still run deep in our landscapes, architecture, economic activity, as well as individual and collective histories. The museum decided to question this “past that we cannot get past” through Christian Leray’s photographic work. Since the 1980s, this Nantes-born artist was chosen to participate in the creation of the exhibition Les Anneaux de la Mémoire. He photographed traces of the slave-trade and slavery in Nantes, Africa and Haiti, from Loango to Saint-Domingue by way of Ouidah and Cap-Français. His images were placed face to face with the engravings, drawings and objects in the museum, acting as windows opening onto our era. Though the relationship was sometimes tenuous, sometimes glaring, it nevertheless always remained unsettling.
Christian Leray’s black and white images, taken in Africa or Haiti, were hung among the objects and documents of Room 13. They were an invitation to cross perspectives – that of the photographer in his search for traces “over there,” physical vestiges of the slave trade and slavery... that of the public, haunted by the echo caused by these photos onto historical documents… and that of the Africans who were taken prisoner and forced to work in plantations – which, of course, we can only infer...