Introducing 'These Things Matter': A groundbreaking new exhibition exploring the destructive legacy of the British Empire

The Bodleian Libraries has partnered with the Museum of Colour (MoC), and Fusion Arts to curate These Things Matter: Empire, Exploitation and Everyday Racism, a startling new exhibition exploring the devastating and long term effects of the British Empire.

Available globally through the MoC's digital platform and in-person in Blackwell Hall at the Weston Library from Thursday 17 November 2022, These Things Matter shows how everyday communications maintained the British Empire and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Maps, letters and even The Bible were edited deliberately to manipulate millions of people and to justify the value of trading African bodies.

These Things Matter is the brainchild of Samenua Sesher, founder of the Museum of Colour. This one-of-a-kind exhibition challenges visitors to consider new perspectives on a perilous time in our history.

The exhibition will, for the first time, feature selected artefacts from the Bodleian Libraries' colonial collections. The inclusion of these artefacts allows visitors to understand how they were used to dehumanise people of colour in order to oppress them over several centuries.

Seven artists selected by the MoC and Oxford-based charity Fusion Arts will interpret the items through sound, art installations and digital displays for a modern audience. This one-of-a-kind exhibition signals a new way of working within the culture and heritage sector, where large-scale, traditional organisations work alongside nimble micro-partners to co-curate fresh and accessible visitor experiences.

The exhibition features seven contemporary artists, one for each of the six artefacts featured and one reflecting on the entire display. These artists are Bunmi Ogunsiji, Grace Lee, Amina Atiq, Dirty Freud, Nilupa Yasmin, Mahdy Abo Bahat and Johannah Latchem.

Each piece looks at the artefact through a 21st century lens, offering a raw and, at times, brutal illustration of the artist’s personal response to it. It conveys how it made them feel, and how they see its intended purpose and human impact. Collectively, the experience takes visitors on a unique journey, forcing them to recognise the simple tools used to exploit and uphold systemic racism.

Sesher was motivated to bring awareness to such conscious acts of manipulation when she discovered what is known as The Slave Bible – an adapted version of the Holy Bible. The edits were made with the intention that slaves who were allowed to read would have no notion of their right to be free, or thoughts of rebellion. The Bible is held in the Bodleian’s collections and is a key feature of the exhibition.

Samenua Sesher said:

Museum of Colour and the Bodleian were looking at how to build on our work together on MoC’s pilot exhibition, People of Letters. So, when I learnt about the 'Slave Bible', and that the Bodleian held a copy, I realised that we had the makings of a really compelling exhibition. Reading about how it was used made me want to explore the quiet but pernicious behaviours that hold barbaric structures in place. This exhibition will highlight the less-discussed but conscious emotional manipulation in items like books and maps. Our co-curative process enabled us all to see the legacies in our societies today: the ongoing manipulation which makes some people think they are better than others and convinces other people that they are less.

Antony Brewerton, Director of Academic Library Services, said:

The Bodleian Libraries is honoured to partner with the Museum of Colour and Fusion Arts for such an important exhibition. Throughout history, words and other mediums have been used to manipulate society and achieve certain outcomes, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was no different. It is important that people know that and I am proud that the Bodleian is able to host such a necessary experience.

Kieran Cox, Artistic Director of Fusion Arts, said:

These Things Matter is a unique and extremely impactful exhibition. It has been a privilege to partner with Museum of Colour and The Bodleian Libraries on such an important and powerful piece of work. Collaborating with the artists and the community to support the creation of These Things Matter has been fascinating, humbling and remarkable experience.

I specifically want to highlight and give gratitude to all the artists who have engaged with the artefacts and objects with such deep care, responsibility and generosity. The content of these documents evokes such strong and raw emotions that not only speak to the atrocious emotional control, repression and violence of the past but also to the present day everyday experience.

These Things Matter launches at the Weston Library and on on Thursday 17 November 2022 and is running until February 2023.

Notes to editors

These Things Matter is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and supported by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and People’s Palace Projects.

For further information, images, or a preview of the exhibition, contact:

Rachel Smith
Press and Communications Manager, Bodleian Libraries
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 277187 |

About the Bodleian Libraries

The Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford is the largest university library system in the United Kingdom. It includes the principal University library – the Bodleian Library – which has been a legal deposit library for 400 years, as well as 27 libraries across Oxford including major research libraries and faculty, department, and institute libraries. Together, the Libraries hold more than 13 million printed items, over 80,000 e-journals and outstanding special collections including rare books and manuscripts, classical papyri, maps, music, art, and printed ephemera. Members of the public can explore the collections via the Bodleian Libraries’ online image portal at or by visiting the exhibition galleries in the Weston Library.

About the Museum of Colour

  • For press requests please contact Juanita Rosenior at TGRG on 0203 375 6024 or
  • The Museum of Colour CIC is the UK’s foremost arts and heritage digital enterprise focussed on the creative journeys of British people of colour. Its mission is to present a continually evolving online repository of once-forgotten wisdom.
  • The MoC lead is Samenua Sesher OBE. She is the founder and director of Museum of Colour and started her career in theatre, and has worked in television drama and community arts. Sesher was a 2008/09 Clore Fellow and is currently on the faculty for Oxford Cultural Leaders and an Associate of People's Palace Projects. She is available for interview.
  • MoC aspires to trusted content, with an accessible user experience that also provides enticement to greater engagement with our partners.
  • Follow on Twitter and Instagram @museumofcolour.

About Fusion Arts

  • Fusion Arts is an Oxford-based charity that devises and delivers innovative creative projects in the local and wider community. We collaborate with a wide range of local, national and global organisations, artists, groups, communities and people to make a difference at multiple levels. Our work is dedicated to foregrounding and tackling urgent social issues such as climate justice and equality.
  • Web:
  • Instagram: @fusionartsox
  • Twitter: @fusionartsox

About People's Palace Projects

  • People’s Palace Projects (PPP) is an arts research centre and a subsidiary of Queen Mary, University of London. For the last 25 years, PPP has asked what role the arts and creativity play in approaching and responding to issues of social justice and development challenges around the world, including in the UK, in favelas and Indigenous territories in Brazil.
  • PPP is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.  
  • #ArtsAgainstAdversity
  • Twitter: @peoplespalaceUK | Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube: @peoplespalaceprojects
  • Queen Mary University of London is a leading research-intensive university with a difference – one that opens the doors of opportunity to anyone with the potential to succeed. Ranked 117 in the world and 1st in England for social mobility, the University has over 28,000 students and 4,400 members of staff. We are a truly global university: over 160 nationalities are represented on our five campuses in London, and we also have a presence in Malta, Paris, Singapore and China.