Fashion This afternoon I visited the International Slavery Museum at the Albert Dock for their new exhibition, White Gold: the true cost of cotton, which investigates the "abuse of labour rights in the cotton industry, primarily in Uzbekistan, one of the largest cotton exporters in the world". As the exhibition partner Environmental Justice Foundation explains on their website, the country achieves its industriousness by making cotton picking a compulsory activity, with a third of the country's population indentured into farming the crop. That includes children who from a young age are brought into the fields by teachers to work long hours with little food and essentially no pay. These are very much the conditions Dickens was highlighting a century ago in this country, still existing elsewhere in the modern world.
The exhibition itself is brief, filling just a small display area at the back of the museum and mostly consists of giant photographs of the children at work and an award winning film (which is embedded above for anyone who isn't in the area). But nothing else is required. The shots of empty classrooms, exhausted children and their squalid living conditions are more than enough for me to question the very clothes I'm walking around in, wondering where the cotton in my t-shirt has been sourced. The problem is, as a flow diagram in the exhibition demonstrates, although the country of origin is still on the cotton when it is being traded, the yarn spinners source from a range of countries so by the time it reaches the shops and then us it is almost impossible for us to find out.