This year’s celebration of the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition coincides with the launch of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024), announced by the UN in 2014.
The theme for this Decade, “Recognition, Justice, Development”, resonates strongly with UNESCO’s constitutional mission and in particular with its Slave Route Project , which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014.
The experience and expertise developed within the framework of this project will result in concrete contributions to the Decade’s objectives, such as a greater awareness of the slave trade and slavery in collective memories and national narratives, the resolution of injustices inherited from a biased record of the history of the slave trade, and the recognition of the significant input made by people of African descent to the modern world.
This International Day is therefore the occasion to highlight both the extent of the repercussions of this human tragedy and the richness of the cultural expressions that people of African descent have produced in the face of adversity through visual arts, music, dance, spirituality, thought, political action and knowledge-building.
This commemoration recalls that the slave trade is not just a thing of the past. It reveals how the slave trade has shaped the face of many modern societies, creating unbreakable bonds between peoples and continents, irreversibly transforming the destiny of nations as well as their economies, cultures, and identities. Ultimately, it is the occasion to learn lessons from the discourses that justify barbarism, and to pay homage to the dignity and resilience of the victims of the slave trade.
To mark this Decade, the Slave Route Project will publish in October 2015 a Decennial Agenda (2015-2024), which provides key dates of the history of people of African descent, as well as relevant information on the themes of this Decade.
The Slave Route Project is organizing two major events in September and October 2015 involving artists who played a pioneering role in portraying this tragic history in their work. On 4 September, an international seminar on “Artists and the Memory of Slavery: Resistance, Creative Freedom and Legacies” and an exhibition of artworks created by African and Caribbean artists on the theme of “Modern Times” will be on display at UNESCO’s Headquarters. On 7 October , the International Coalition of Artists for the Promotion of the Emblematic Collection of the General History of Africa will be launched.