Exhibit  |  February 11, 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Family Circle by renowned Bermudian artist Bill Ming has a new home for the next six months at the National Museum of Bermuda. On loan from the Corporation of Hamilton, the contemporary art piece is on display at the front entrance of Commissioner’s House and links the NMB’s exhibits exploring slavery and enslavement in Bermuda. While on display Family Circle will play an important role in education programs being developed at the Museum.

Comprised of seven wooden figures, the artwork took several years to complete and was made using methods reminiscent of African carvers. Each figure was carved directly into the wood without drawings or plans with Ming drawing inspiration from personal experiences and his cultural heritage links with Africa, the Americas and Europe to create the artwork. Initially, the figures were exhibited separately or in pairs but when exhibitions were over, Ming would store them together in his studio. Realizing that this act of separation and division was akin to what his ancestors endured, Ming decided to display the figures together. This act, according to Ming, “gave each figure a voice, presence and strength”. Other elements and materials used in the artwork further comment on the impact of slavery: “ball bearings indicate a loss of direction and the outline of a slave ship carved into one figure’s back portrays our journey to the West.”

“Family Circle” on display in Commissioner’s House, National Museum of Bermuda

An important sculpture loaded with layers of meaning, Ming’s Family Circle offers a unique portrayal of the legacy of enslavement around which conversations on the upheaval of people for the purpose of economy and trade; immigration and displacement; the dynamics of family; and, more broadly, the tensions and ironies of humanity can take place. Its display alongside the Museum’s exhibits on slavery in Bermuda provides a new way of seeing and an entry point to discuss the historical realities of this part of Bermuda’s history and its impact on modern Bermudian society.

New education programming is being developed around this display to encourage students and visitors to explore the layers of meaning in the artwork and make relevant connections to the history and legacies of slavery in Bermuda. NMB Learning and Engagement Director Lisa Howie is looking forward to developing the programming and urged the importance of having thoughtful discussions on such sensitive matters, adding “we hope this artwork will play an important role in the community’s engagement with Bermuda history and open new conversations on historical and contemporary issues.”

Dwayne Caines, Chief Operating Officer at the City of Hamilton remarked, “the City is delighted to loan Family Circle to the National Museum of Bermuda as a part of their current exhibit. This unprecedented collaboration with the National Museum is a welcome one as we are keenly aware of the impact that this particular artwork can have when it comes to discussions about black history in our community. The City is excited for it to become an educational tool for students and visitors to the Museum. Its role is an integral one and I hope the conversations that it evokes bring new engagement and awareness to the cultural intricacies of Bermuda’s history.”

Bill Ming studied at Mansfield College of Art from 1975-76 and gained his degree in Sculpture and Creative Writing from Maidstone College of Art in 1979. He has been involved in numerous community projects and workshops covering a range of art activities and techniques in addition to sculpture. Using wood and various other materials, Ming creates cultural collages that reflect the physical and spiritual aspects of life in all forms.

The National Museum of Bermuda (NMB) currently has over a dozen exhibits exploring 500 years of Bermuda history and has been a steward of Bermuda’s cultural heritage for over four decades. For the month of February the Museum is free for all Bermuda residents and is open daily from 10am – 5pm, with last admission at 4pm. During this month NMB is also offering free activities every Saturday encouraging visitors to experience the Museum in new ways. For more information visit www.nmb.bm.

To see more of Bill Ming’s work visit: http://www.billming.com/.

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