Group Head, Fine Art, U.K
My globe features plants that were once transported and cultivated by enslaved people. Included are flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables, many of which are still grown, utilised and eaten today. Some are familiar to descendants of enslaved people, others we all may know and use without being aware of their origin. I wanted to juxtapose the idea of the beauty of nature with how it was used to exploit people.
Although now many of us have access to and enjoy the end products of these plants, for example cocoa, coffee, cotton, we may not recognise the original plants, and I wanted to explore and highlight what our enslaved ancestors would have seen when growing them. Crops such as these owe their establishment to the horticultural knowledge and practices of enslaved Africans. Others flourished due to being transported or expertly nurtured by them, often having to adapt their knowledge to wherever they were forced to migrate. They rarely, if ever, are or were recognised or compensated for their work.
The theme of my globe is essentially Survival. Whether by force – cultivated on plantations profiting the enslavers or as findings to be exploited and appropriated by scientists; by necessity – to supplement what deliberately poor diet they were provided, or to treat illness or health conditions; or by choice – in what little time and with the limited resources they had, evoking a sense of their original home or cultural identity in furniture, craft or a taste of home. Whatever the end purpose, they grew these plants to survive.
Now, it's down to us; the choices we are afforded due to the struggles of our Black ancestors, their legacy has echoes in the present. We can decide to use natural resources ethically and responsibly. Therefore, as descendants, will we use natures bounty for evil or for good?
Sophie Mowat is the founder of Mowat&daughter – a design house specialising in woven and printed textiles and surfaces for fashion and lifestyle. Her designs are shaped by her dual heritage, blending the vibrant colours of Barbados with the flora and fauna of the British countryside. She also draws on the patterns and textures she see in daily life; on travels to different countries and visits to exhibitions. Later Sophie found a love of print and pattern design while working for suppliers for leading fashion brands and retailers. After becoming a mother in 2018 and later going freelance in 2020, she developed her own handwriting and design style. Sophie is particularly inspired by culture, history, nature and travel. She believes textile design has strong links to memory and can spark positive recall, as often the designs connect people and places we think of fondly. She designs with enthusiasm, inspiration and innovation in a world of throwaway culture, fast fashion and monotonous repetition.