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The Taffia’s National Museum of Ritual Shaming

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WELCOME to the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, museum of the future, museum of today. Once through the doors, you are confronted by black-masked attendants. Whenever England liberates, the ultra-progressive contrarians in Wales lock down. If someone told Labour supporters in Wales that Boris Johnson enjoyed breathing oxygen, they would hold their breath to spite him.

One of the staircases to the first floor is blocked off, supposedly on grounds of safety. The NMW cultivates visitors as fearful drones taking instructions on social distancing and mask-wearing. Absurdly, shutting one staircase forces visitors into closer proximity on the other staircase; the only real purpose of the move is for museum staff to display willingness to do whatever looks authoritative, however pointless or counterproductive.

Once you have negotiated locked doors and closed galleries, the first gallery has been set to prepare you. The usual selection of modern and contemporary art has been removed apart from a Howard Hodgkin print; instead there is a marble statue of a woman and bronze heads of black men. On facing walls stentorian screens display stark texts. You are here not to contemplate art; you are here to be confronted with instruction (disguised as ‘starting a conversation’). You are bombarded by a loud audio track from the neighbouring room – African singing and chanting. This echoes through the subsequent galleries. Your masters insist you cannot evade ‘silenced voices’. They will be imposed on you. As Gramsci recommended, allow no space for retreat or contemplation, permit no field to remain uncontrolled, subvert every activity in the extension of revolutionary consciousness raising.

National Museum of Wales, August 12 2022 Photo: author

In another gallery is the painting Caernarfon Castle (c 1815-9) by Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding (1787-1855). Most of it. Part of it is obscured by a heap of cardboard boxes, which also prevents one getting close to the painting – a beautiful Romantic view of an important Welsh landmark. The boxes touch the frame and the glazing of the painting. This is an intervention by someone designated an artist, invited to interfere with a handsome painting. The activist staff of museums today will not allow you to enjoy art of the past. They will employ ‘artivists’ to degrade art, to embarrass its pretensions towards profundity, sublimity and aesthetic rapture, which are undercut by interventions that prevent us from engaging with art to which we respond warmly. New ‘art’ that we do not respect is used a tool to separate us from old art we do respect.

Unable to command respect or elicit affection, these artists are reduced to tactics of disruption. Masters of the past did not disfigure or restrict access to other art, they simply made art that was more spectacular and accomplished than what came before. They could trump competitors by being better. Shorn of skills, unable to create art, cut off from tradition, functioning as quasi-activists (artivism), today’s pseudo-artists are invited to ‘beat’ artists of the past by physically preventing you from appreciating that art. This individual is being used in a similar way to Sonia Boyce, another establishment client, who was invited to take Waterhouse’s Hylas and the Nymphs (1896) from the wall of Manchester City Art Gallery ostensibly to examine assumptions about female nudity in Western art. Actually, it was a chance for a prominent feminist and a curator to take away imagery of attractive nude European women.

In another gallery is the portrait of General Sir Thomas Picton (1758-1815), later Governor of Trinidad. The portrait is presented in a packing case, partially obscured. It is surrounded by descriptions of punishment in Trinidad at the time. (There is no mention of comparable treatment of criminals in Great Britain at that time, which is done to deliberately skew visitor understanding of Picton’s governorship.) This is an act of ritual humiliation, as primitive and crude as you will ever have seen in a museum.

National Museum of Wales, August 12, 2022 Photo: author

There is a further gallery in which testimonies by people who have never experienced slavery are presented in order to shame people who have never supported or enacted slavery, organised by an elite who despise the indigenous people of Wales, whom they see as culpable for slavery. There is not – and will never be – a presentation about the West African and Arab slave-trading system that provided slaves to colonists. This is because the aim of the display’s organisers is to humiliate the Welsh and obscure the truth of the economic network that facilitated the North African slave trade.

The loud soundtrack is African in origin and is played in a room where visitors must negotiate a metal rack filled with slips of paper – some coloured, some with messages. It is low-effort propaganda that no one would choose to buy or collect except a museum that is intend on ticking more diversity boxes and having material to replace the traditional painting made by Europeans and admired and treasured since. The National Museum – in common with most museums – has more art than it has space to display. The acquisition of non-European art is so that the National Museum can replace European, British and Welsh art with non-Western art, which displays the allegiances of the museum curators. They are telling you that your culture will be replaced, by force and against your will. And you will pay for it.

The removal of a marble statue of Picton from Cardiff City Hall parallels the ritual humiliation of the Picton portrait in the National Museum. The former was voted for by the City Council, which is dominated by the Labour Party and Welsh Nationalists. Staff and members of Labour, the Nationalist Party, the Arts Council of Wales, S4C (Welsh television), NGOs, universities and senior administrative posts in the civil service are often called ‘the Taffia’. This is a group of Welsh, Welsh-speaking elitists who dominate the local government, charity and civil service. Being Welsh-speaking (in a nation which is generally not Welsh speaking, in south Wales, the area with the fewest Welsh-speakers per head of population) allows them a privileged position. It also detaches them from the local population, giving them a sense of entitlement and superiority.

It is this Taffia which expresses its dislike of the indigenous Welsh population by promoting mass migration (presented as ‘welcoming refugees’). The Welsh Nationalists, paradoxical as it may seem, dislike the heritage Welsh population and culture. Consider the way the Scottish Nationalist Party and Sinn Fein have promoted migration and embraced globalism. The Welsh Nationalists – a party set up to protect the integrity of the Welsh nation and its culture and language – used in its campaigns Sahar Al-Faifi, a Muslim woman of immigrant descent wearing a full-face veil.

At a national level, the National Museum’s display was promoted by the Museums Association (MA), an organisation which formerly provided ethical guidance to museum staff and is now an advocacy group for radical causes, which promotes deaccessioning, contextual shaming, restricting access to items in public collections and converting museums into activity centres. The MA is one of the primary means by which the elite spread their values. If the MA promoted a detached, object-focused presentation, eschewing social commentary, the museum sector in the UK might be quite different (assuming that one did not have the current supportive interference from the DCMS, ACE, charities and so forth). It shows that the elite wish to use the cultural patrimony of the nation against the majority population by humiliating them, degrading the subjects of admiration and the replacement of this patrimony which meaningless junk – the racks of tat and the insistent drone of a foreign song – as a lasting reproach.

It is also a ‘flex’ – a chance for the elite to show their power by disposing of European art and replacing it with non-European art, and by using museum resources to degrade a Welsh war hero. It echoes their intention for the population. They cannot help but announce in advance what they will subject you to.

The dilution, ritual humiliation, reduced status and replacement is for the indigenous European-British culture and for its people. Multi-culturalism – the aim of globalist progressives and the quasi-nationalists of the UK – cannot be achieved without cultural and demographic substitution. The one implies (even requires) the other. We should see the National Museum as a National Hall of Ritual Shaming, where the Taffia appropriates the resources of art to shame and humiliate the population that pays for the museum, just as it works to supplant that population.

In terms of pure power politics and elite theory, it is admirable – although it may prove to be overreach. In every other respect, it is despicable.

This appeared in Alexander Adams on August 13, 2022, and is republished by kind permission.

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Alexander Adams
Alexander Adams
Alexander Adams is a British artist, critic and author, who writes for the Jackdaw. He is author of Artivism: The Battle for Museums in the Era of Postmodernism, published by Imprint Academic.

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