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Negro Heads

Negro Heads

Author: Bridgens, Richard

Medium: Letterpress

Date: 1836

Shelfmark: 789.g.13

Item number: Plate 19

Length: 37.5

Width: 27

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Printed Text

Accompanying text to a plate from Richard Bridgens' 'West India Scenery.' The plate depicts portraits of enslaved men and women with examples of traditional tattooing techniques, in addition to some of the methods of punishment that were applied for various misdemeanours such as intoxication and dirt eating. Dirt eating was not uncommon amongst the enslaved populations on the plantations ? and can still be found in many areas of the world today. The 'compulsion' to eat dirt was a mystery to the plantation owners and physicians and since they did not understand it, they would not tolerate it. These brutal mouth locks were thus devised as a deterrent and 'therapy' to stop the practice. It is now known that eating dirt can in fact provide nutrients and minerals and the practice may well have alleviated deficiencies in the slave diet. However, if too much dirt was eaten it could cause sickness and eventually death. It can therefore perhaps also be seen as a form of resistance - a method of 'suicide' to escape enslavement and the brutality of life on the plantations.

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