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UK memorial to one of Bermuda’s icons

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Seat of honour: The bronze chair memorialising Mary Prince. Picture supplied by Jill Raine.

On a distant green meadow in the English countryside stands a memorial to one of the most important figures in Bermudian history.

The bronze chair emblazoned with the name of Mary Prince is one of 12 that forms a new piece of artwork called The Jurors.

The circle of chairs was installed in an empty field in Runnymede earlier this summer to mark 800 years since Magna Carta was signed close to the same spot.

Each piece of furniture is adorned with images and symbols relating to past and ongoing struggles for freedom and equal rights.

Chair number five is dedicated to the memory of Ms Prince as well as American poet Phillis Wheatley.

The front of the seat carries a picture of a lady with a quill in her hand that represents both Ms Prince and Ms Wheatley.

The booklet provided to visitors states: “Poet Phillis Wheatley was the first published African American woman — 1773.

“Mary Prince was the first woman to present an anti-slavery petition to the British parliament — 1828 — and the first black woman to write and publish an autobiography — 1831 — at a time at which it was claimed that slavers and former slaves were not capable of such writing.”

Ms Prince was born in Devonshire in 1788 to an enslaved family of African descent.

While she was later living in London, her autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, was the first account of the life of a black woman to be published in the United Kingdom.

Her appearance in The Jurors by British-Guyanese artist Hew Locke has been hailed as “a fitting tribute” by the African Diaspora Trail.

Committee member, Florence Maxwell, told The Royal Gazette: “I am very impressed to hear of this recognition, especially in the UK.

“I am very pleased that she has been recognised in this way and as a woman of stature. You don’t often run into Bermudians getting international recognition on the world stage.

“Mary Prince told her story and that is what makes it so impressive. She played a very prominent role in exposing what slavery was really like.”

The Jurors was positioned just a few miles from the town of Windsor where modern democracy and human rights are said to have been born.

Magna Carta was sealed by King John 800 years ago forming the foundations of the freedom of the individual, justice and equality.

The artwork consists of 12 bronze chairs placed in a circle around an invisible table, a direct reference to clause 39 of Magna Carta, which states that no man can be imprisoned “except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land”.

The chairs document the struggle for freedom and equal rights, as well as abuses, from the suffragettes and the suffering of the Australian aborigines to the assassination of gay activist Harvey Milk.