National Museum Wales, also known as the Amgueddfa Cymru, has removed a portrait of Sir Thomas Picton from its ‘Faces of Wales’ Gallery in Cardiff.
Despite Picton being a celebrated war hero at the Battle of Waterloo, his time as Governor of Trinidad and Tobago involved the cruel treatment of Indigenous and enslaved peoples. According to Wales Online, while Picton was at the helm from the 1790s to 1800s, he had authorized the use of torture on local citizens.
A new initiative, Reframing Picton, has been launched by the museum together with the Sub Sahara Advisory Panel (SSAP), in which two artists with Trinidadian roots will have the chance to “reinterpret” the historical figure’s legacy.
The two artists will consist of Trinidadian multi-disciplinary artist Gesiye, as well as UK-based Trinidadian art collective Laku Neg.
Following the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, artworks depicting Picton had come under more scrutiny in Wales, with citizens feeling the once lieutenant-general’s violence against people of color to be unconscionable.
According to ARTnews, The Cardiff Council had even voted to have his statue removed from the ‘Hall of Heroes’ at City Hall.
While the two artists collaborate on the commissions, Picton’s portrait will be replaced by British artist Albert Houthuesen’s painting, William Lloyd, Hedger, and Ditcher (1937). The work depicts a young, hard-working Welsh man who’s probably working in the mines.
“This project replaces one artwork—which assigns great importance to someone whose actions as Governor of Trinidad even at the time were seen as cruel—with a celebratory portrait of a worker—someone we could today consider to be a hero,” Kath Davies, Director of Collections and Research at National Museum Wales, remarked.
“As we aim to build a Wales that is inclusive, built on the foundations of equality, and one which focuses on community cohesion and appreciative of different cultures that exist in our country, we need to celebrate those representative of the society we live in,” said Fadhili Maghiya, Director of SSAP.
“Those individuals should be displayed on the ‘Faces of Wales’ Gallery.”