There is a statue of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the Storey Gallery and a tradition that artists add something to the statue during an exhibition.
I decided to run up a quick piece of map clothing for fun; an Empire Apron!
I ordered a map of the British Empire during her reign. The design of the apron was easy, using the northern hemisphere for the bib. I printed off sections of the Union Jack for the neck and waist ties as there was not enough spare map for that. The map had a few British explorers, a lot of happy natives all around the edges, and lounging maidens across the top holding banners with the words Freedom, Fraternity and Federation: words written in all seriousness during her reign, but probably rather ironic for many British people (though not all) nowadays. I was concerned that I was just perpetuating and supporting the original myth and felt I had to do a bit more – so not such a quick piece of work after all.
I was given a book, recently rescued from a skip, London Illustrated Newspaper 1844. Plenty of black and white illustrations in there of less contented and passive natives. This could provide an alternative commentary.
I think the piece needs a different title; ‘Whose Freedom, Whose Empire?’ Rather than ‘Empire Apron’.