Professor Frank Felsenstein, Professor Jenna Gibbs and Barbadian performance artist and co-producer of 2015 production of Yarico, Adisa Andwele

Yarico’s story was first recorded by Richard Ligon in his 1657 book The True & Exact History of Barbados. In the book he mentions an Amerindian slave girl who told him the story of how she became enslaved. On that Ligon wrote: “So poor Yarico, for her love, lost her liberty”

In 1787, when George Colman introduced the story to the English public in the form of an opera – Inkle and Yarico - its instant popularity surpassed everyone’s expectations. With the onset of the age of abolition, it was the right story at the right time, and the opera’s enormous success inspired countless other adaptations, which in turn added fuel to the growing debate on the ethics of slavery. Subsequently, this led to a major shift in the general perception of forced labour, and the inhumane treatment of those in bondage.

Writers from across Europe were tantalised by the simplicity of the story, and its strength. What made it stand out was its relevance to sensitive political and social issues, such as slavery, race, gender equality, and cultural diversity.