What a World! A creative look at Penrhyn's collection and the culture of colonialism

Books featured in the What a World exhibition at Penrhyn Castle

At Penrhyn Castle, we tell its story through the building, paintings and objects we care for. What a World takes a look at pieces in the collection linked to our colonial past, the transatlantic slave trade and the culture of colonialism.

Since 2018, we’ve been experimenting. We’ve used Penrhyn’s collection to explore histories far beyond the Castle walls – those of the people and places who paid for the construction and furnishing of Penrhyn.  

Here you can find out more about this process and explore a taster of what awaits you when you visit.

Croeso i Beth yn y Byd! - Welcome to What a World!

To create What a World!, we worked with Shaza, Fatimah, Leon, Adam, Abhay, Victoria, Julia, Alice, Khalid, and Zahraa from Our Lady’s Primary School in Bangor. They chose 9 objects and paintings, in order to explore the castle's links to colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade.

At the same time, staff and volunteers worked in the archives to expand our understanding of Penrhyn’s connections to enslaved people on Jamaican sugar plantations.

Through this project, the children and the Castle team worked with historians and with poets Martin Daws and Aneurin Karadog. Responding creatively allowed us to interact and think about the collection and our global histories in a different way.

Meet the objects

Reflecting on the exhibition and the process we went through to make it, Leon told us:

“It’s important to talk about these objects because it’s everybody’s history. It’s dark, unpleasant and brutal. Take the Bird Dome, they’ve taken something beautiful and treated it as if it was not living, as if it was property. This castle is beautiful, these objects are beautiful, but they come from cruelty, some of them come from cruelty to enslaved African people.

“Writing these poems has made me reflect and think back on the story of Penrhyn. I’m not a very emotional person to tell the truth but it is important to think about our past and other people’s past, why does this castle exist?

“We need to look at the beauty of the past but also recognise our mistakes and build a better future. Why make the same mistakes again?”

Please visit our Opening Times section for latest opening arrangements.

Sugar and slate