The Slave Trade

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For Our first piece of exam work we studied the slaves in the American civil war and the oppression they endured. After brainstorming information we knew about the war we were split into groups and asked to study a photograph of a family of slaves. From their facial expressions and postures we tried to determine what the people were feeling, what they were like and what it suggested about their way of life. The family as a whole looked serious and unhappy. Many of their shoulders were slouched which made them appear exhausted. The father stood in the middle, his arms slightly outstretched by his sides as if to protect and defend his family.

His brows were furrowed suggesting he be stressed. The grandfather looked old and wise, his posture slouched. His face looked tired as if he had come to terms with the way their life was. The woman sitting has her face down which immediately indicates little confidence and sadness. The woman standing beside her has a very closed posture with her arms clutched around her middle. This makes her look frightened and uneasy. The boy at the front of the photo looks the most confident member of his family because he is kneeling in a relaxed position and is at the front.

The woman holding a baby leans backwards into the photograph. She looks scared for herself and her baby because her eyebrows are pointing upwards at the bridge of her nose. The group then did a tableau of the family, adopting the positions from the photograph. We thought tracked each character in turn. I was one of the young boys. I leant into and rested upon an older family member for protection ad comfort. I tilted my forehead down and my eyes up which showed the audience I was scared, unsure who to trust and wary. I also appeared somewhat stubborn as I imagined the child the photograph to be.

I showed this by making my sad expression firm and closing my mouth, tight-lipped. I could tell a lot about the boy I was by studying the photograph of him and his family and thinking of what I knew about the treatment of slaves at that time. He had suffered a lot of hardship and pain. Had seen his family tortured but is too young to know of any other life than that of his. To thought track my character I said ” I don’t like this and I don’t like those people”. I said that because I looked fearful and distrusting. It is childlike and straight to the point.

To empathizes this I spoke slowly in a low stubborn sounding tone. The next piece of drama we did was a mime, which was inspired from an extract from ‘Fifty Years in Chains’. The story told of a young boy being sold to a slave trader and his mother that ran after the boy and ‘wept loudly and bitterly over him’. The boy’s master had pity but her slave driver did not. When he found her with them he whipped her with his raw hide and dragged her away. We found the story distressing and were shocked by the complete lack of respect the slave drivers had for the black people.

Our piece was violent and sad which was intended to move the audience. We decided to incorporate the vastly contrasting places of status into our mime. The slaves who had the lower status were collapsed on the floor beneath their masters. The mother had thrown herself over her son and clung to him desperately, as if her body could protect him. Her facial expression was of distress and anguish which was shown by the wrinkling of her forehead, slanting the eyebrows down and the quick movements of her eyes conveying she was agitated. I played the young boy.

My character was very frightened and confused by all that was happening. I showed this to the audience mainly in my facial expression of wide, terrified eyes, eyebrows slanted down and a slightly open mouth. As I saw my mother I ran to her and hid beneath her. When her slave master whipped her I registered the pain and shock my character would be feeling by breathing in sharply and moving the muscles in my face to emphasize my expression. I ran to my mother again and after she had been dragged away and myself thrown to my master we ended the mime with a tableau.

I stood, looking after my mother, my body position open, arms hanging loosely by my sides, feet apart. My expression was not contracted as of before. My brows and forehead was relaxed. My mouth hung open and my eyes looked out, wide and stunned. The purpose of this was to create innocence about the 4-year-old boy, who did not fully understand what was happening. Staring after his mother who had just been taken away from him, he felt like he was completely on his own in a world he didn’t know. This was shown by his wide, shocked stance.

The boy’s slave master was kinder than usual and looked on at the scene sympathetically, feeling a bit guilty. We tried to convey this to the audience by having him slightly detached from all the action in the scene. The mother’s harsh slave master showed her high status by the stern, unfeeling expression on her face. Whatever she did, whilst whipping the mother or pushing the child, she showed no signs of emotion to portray the mean, cold, tough character she was. She walked slowly and with conviction to show the audience her power.

The piece of mime could have been improved if we were to have had more space to move about in. This would also enable us to more clearly focus the audience’s attentions on to certain characters at different points during the mime. The piece could have also been improved by working out our positioning better so that the audience could always see our faces when intended to. I was aware during the performance that my back was towards the audience and I had to subtly adjust my position. A group I thought worked particularly well was Olly’s. The somber procession of the slaves and the master made the audience feel low.

Olly hung his head show shame, sorrow and little confidence. David I played the kinder slave master. To show his sympathy he had an unsure facial expression and folded his arms to show discomfort. Nick was very successful at making the harsh slave master scary and intimidating because he walked with such a sense of power. The work we have done on slavery has helped me understand many of the different emotions they must have been though. The conditions and atrocities they suffered were unbelievable and it made me feel angry to think we could treat other humans in such a wicked way.

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