Werstas in Tampere, Finland 2006.
The Cotton Famine video installation was exhibited in the Textile Industry Museum of the Central Museum of Labour in Tampere in November 2006. The work of art tells about how the main raw material, cotton, was purchased to the Finlayson factory in the 19th century. The factory was situated in the building in which the museum now functions.
The Finlayson factory was suffering from lack of cotton in the 1860’s. This was due to the civil war between the Southern and Northern States of the US. The cause of the war was slavery. However, a reason just as important was the Northern States’ need for cotton. The cotton the slaves (who were brought from Africa) picked in the plantations had mainly ended up in Europe. From Liverpool, England some of the cotton had even been exported all the way to the Finlayson factory in Tampere, Finland. In 1862, Finlayson managed to buy some Southern cotton from ships that had broken through the blockades of the civil war in Charleston. The cotton that had ended up in Liverpool secured Finlayson’s production for a year.
In Tampere the lack of material was also eased by the Northern States’ booty cotton. Some of this cotton ended up in the European market. before the civil war the Southern States had mostly been the producers of raw material while the Northern States and Europe made a fortune with the cotton the slaves picked.
In the end, the Northern States won the war after the slaves joined their armed forces. The social status of the blacks was not significantly improved, however, as slavery was replaced with racial segregation.