Abolished but not abandoned: Slavery close to home

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It is such a wonderful thing to wit- ness the creativity of students in St Andrews. Students who strive to make a difference in the world. Recently formed student organisation ‘St Andrews Against Slavery’ is the perfect example of initiation taken by students, and their recent exhibition in the Barron demonstrates the fact that art can change the world.

Founders of the society, Bonnie Groves and Lili Vankó, explained that their organisation “aims to raise awareness about human trafficking and modern day slavery”. Most of us deny that slavery still exists, thinking that since it was ‘abolished’ almost 200 years ago, it is merely a facet of history. However, this is, disturbingly, not the case. Sadly, slavery exists far closer to home than we can possibly imagine.

Groves said that her organisation discovered that “recently on the west coast of Scotland, eighteen girls were found to have been trafficked and were being exploited sexually”. The exhibition was a collaboration with ArtSoc, Amnesty, and Protocol Magazine, and is the biggest even the society has organised yet. The exhibition takes the form of an “audio-visual installation that depicts through various sensory experiences what it feels like to be a sex slave or a sex trafficking victim.”

The committee behind St Andrews Against Slavery has gone to a huge lengths and combined a wide variety of media in this exhibition, including sounds, voice overs, text projections, student art and photography. Although focusing on such a terrible issue, the installation is not entirely bleak and shocking, for it includes survivor stories of victims in order to show there can be light at the end of these ordeals.

So what inspired such a creative and shocking exhibition? A member of the society had been involved in the Helen Bamber Foundation, which put on an event called the Journey, which consisted of a series of large, metal container boxes playing on the different experiences of sex trafficking. this instalment in- spired the society to try and recreate their own version of this profound installation, but of course, on a student level and budget, and incorporating talent from the town itself.

Groves and Vankó hope that visitors who view the exhibition will appreciate its full impact and feel as if they have almost lived through these ordeals themselves. “Slavery can feel so distant as it does not affect us or anyone we know. Yet, we are unknowingly so close to what is happening,” Groves said.

Rather depressingly, this is the truth of the matter. We have all bought clothes from Primark, which could have potentially been made in a sweatshop. We have all consumed non-Fairtrade coffee. This event is meant to raise awareness for the society’s campaign against slavery and it does exactly that. “People in St Andrews will make an impact on the world as long as they are more conscious of what they do, where they go, and what they buy,” Vankó said.

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