‘Censoring history’? Huw Edwards ‘uneasy’ as National Museum Wales takes down Picton portrait
BBC broadcaster Huw Edwards has said that he is “uneasy” with the idea of the National Museum taking down a portrait of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton.
The decision to remove the portrait was made as part of Reframing Picton, which is a youth-led initiative involving Amgueddfa Cymru and community partner the Sub Sahara Advisory Panel.
But Huw Edwards questioned whether the decision amounted to “censoring history” and suggested that Picton remain in place in order to remind Wales about its past.
Picton has previously been hailed as a public hero but is equally notorious for his cruel treatment of Black enslaved people and free people, and for sanctioning torture during his governance of Trinidad, from 1797-1803.
But Huw Edwards said: “As a journalist I feel uneasy about this element of ‘censoring’ history. Should not Picton remain on display as a reminder to Wales of an aspect of its past – no matter how disgraceful?”
He also cast doubt on suggestions by the National Museum that the portrait of Picton would soon return having been “reinterpreted” with new information.
“The official statement is absurdly vague,” he said on Twitter, “a process with no definite timescale – and talks of ‘replacing’ Picton with that of ‘hero’ William Lloyd. Is the plan to remove the ‘hero’ within months and replace him with Picton?”
The National Museum’s statement said the portrait would be replaced with another portrait titled ‘Hedger and Ditcher: Portrait of William Lloyd’.
The portrait was painted by Dutch artist Albert Houthuesen who was fascinated with the working life of the colliers in Trelogan, Flintshire whilst on holiday in the area with his wife in the 1930s.
Kath Davies, Director of Collections and Research at Amgueddfa Cymru said that it was “another important step” for the museum in examining their national collections and thinking about who they displayed in their Faces of Wales gallery and why.
“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,” she said.
“Looking ahead, Amgueddfa Cymru will be creating educational resources on the history and achievements of communities experiencing racial inequalities within our society. These will support the recently announced changes to the curriculum by the Welsh Government.”
Fadhili Maghiya, Director of the Sub Sahara Advisory Panel said the aim was to build an “inclusive” Wales, “built on the foundations of equality and one which focuses on community cohesion and appreciative of the different cultures that exist in our country”.
She said that there was a need to “celebrate those who are representative of the society we live in. Those individuals should be displayed on the Faces of Wales Gallery”.
In October 2021, Amgueddfa Cymru announced two new artworks had been commissioned following an open call for artists to reinterpret Picton’s legacy.
The new commissions are by Trinidadian and Tobagonian multi-disciplinary artist Gesiye and UK-based Laku Neg, a group of four members of Trinidadian heritage that promotes expressions of African diaspora knowledge through the arts.
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