The sound of leather on willow returns for another summer of cricket. Seen by many as an idyllic, gentleman's sport it is also a long game with a long history with roots in colonialism. Until 13 February 2011 the International Slavery Museum hosts Beyond the Boundary, an exhibition exploring aspects of cricket that have not been seen before.
Beyond the Boundary explores the relationship between cricket, culture, class and politics and how it can be seen as a legacy of British imperialism and colonialism and, paradoxically, as a means of resistance against it.
Head of the International Slavery Museum, Dr Richard Benjamin says, "We want to challenge the notion that cricket is a quaint, middle-class, white English sport. Throughout history cricket has always been tinged with aspects of discrimination and people have had to challenge that in order to break through, excel and achieve. This is obviously a subject people are interested in as we have had over 140,000 visitors to the museum since the exhibition opened."
Through photographs featuring cricketers such as Viv Richards, Paul Adams and Basil D'Oliveira, the exhibition celebrates contemporary players who, by playing in the boundary of the cricket pitch, broke the boundaries of racial apartheid in South Africa. Beyond the Boundary explores the story of enslavement and oppression of people from the African Diaspora globally, and their deep connections with cricket.
Despite exclusion from the elite "white game" throughout the Empire, by the second half of the 20th century the West Indies team became the undisputed world champions. They rode on the wave of nationalism which accompanied political independence in the 1960s, while at the same time apartheid in South Africa isolated their team internationally.
The initial introduction of cricket to the Americas, Europe and Africa was a result of the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism. As the sport became more entrenched in the African Diasporas cultures it became a tool of resistance to the regime that had ironically first introduced it. These communities brought about their own identities in their struggle against the imposed boundaries of Empire, colonialism and Apartheid.
Beyond the Boundary illustrates that the transatlantic slave trade holds a deep-rooted legacy that is evident and prevalent today.
However, this exhibition is both emotive and dynamic in its demonstration of resistance to the elitism that was imposed on the African Diaspora.