Conrad’s classic Heart of Darkness is a powerful indictment of imperialism at its height which swept across Africa and in particular the repressive and brutal reign of the Belgians in the Congo, which had become the fiefdom of King Leopold II. The book centres on Marlow, a sailor who works for a Belgian ivory trading company, and encounters widespread brutality by the company. At the end of the book Conrad's narrator encounters Kurtz (Brando in Apocalypse Now), who had worked for the company but turned himself into a demigod and who was guilty of carrying out horrifying atrocities.
I don’t want to come across as an old curmudgeon on Valentine’s Day but the book sprang to mind when I was thinking of my next blog and the consequences of abused power (imperial and personal) and how that can turn people’s lives upside down, often condemning them to a life of misery. This does not stop on Valentine’s Day.
In the past several years we have been building partnerships with several NGO’s in both the UK and abroad such as Anti-Slavery International and Free the Slaves and become acutely aware of the enormity of the issues of contemporary forms of slavery and enslavement and in particular trafficking for labour and sexual exploitation. What is heartening is the fact that there are so many committed organizations and individuals who refuse to give up the fight and I say with conviction that we at the International Slavery Museum fit into these categories. In England and Wales since 2011 the Salvation Army has managed the delivery of specialist support services to victims of human trafficking which can be seen in an illuminating report.
Kurtz’s last words “The horror! The horror!” sadly, still echoes today, but the International Slavery Museum will continue to develop partnerships and be a hub for various human rights organizations and campaigns that fight trafficking and exploitation. If you have not already done so follow our work via Twitter or Facebook and spread the word.
Finally, if you still need to buy someone a present (that’s pushing it!) try to source a product free from slavery and exploitation. Even though there have been great strides in making the chocolate industry slavery and exploitation free there is still plenty of campaigning to be done.
Bye for now,