'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

'Bold Black British', curated by Aindrea Emelife

© Ibrahim El-Salahi

‘Bold, Black British’ was an exhibition held at Christie’s London between 1–21 October, showcasing Black British art from the 80s until the present. It was curated by Aindrea Emelife who wanted to show a wide range of Black British art besides a few paintings:

‘I like to see my curatorial practice as a Trojan horse,’ Emelife explains. ‘I want people to go into exhibitions with one idea, and have other ideas leap out at you, challenging and moving you at unexpected turns, asking you to look again at the history you thought you knew, or look closer at a history that has been seldom looked at.’

I found about this way too late but you can see some of the art via Wallpaper.com and a list of the featured artists on the Christie’s website as well as a 3D virtual tour.

Rhea Dillon on 'Nonbody Nonthing No Thing', her debut solo exhibition

“Being Black British is part of my ontic and ontology so it’s always present in my work because it is me.” Photography by Theo Christelis, via V.O Curations

For AnOther, Sagal Mohammed spoke to Rhea Dillon about her first solo exhibition, entitled Nonbody Nonthing No Thing. The Black British-Jamaican artist, writer and poet uses a variety of media to interpret what she calls the “‘rules of representation’ as a device to undermine contemporary Western culture” and “‘humane afrofuturism’ as a practice of bringing forward the humane and equality-led perspectives on how we visualise Black bodies”.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is one of those works, showing abstractions of Blackness in the form of 7 paintings and sculptures. The above image depicts “landing” and how the Diasporic experience for Black Africans and Caribbeans meant leaving the known and landing in the unknown. That fragmented journey, which doesn’t stop when the plane touches down or the ship anchors, is captured brilliantly in this work.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is at VO Curations in London from 15th Oct–11th Nov 2021 so get there if you can.

Tina M. Campt's 'A Black Gaze'

I follow MIT’s tech blog and stumbled upon a book from their press called ‘A Black Gaze’:

In A Black Gaze, Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson’s disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa’s videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Kahlil Joseph’s films and Dawoud Bey’s photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpokwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity.

With regular discourse around cultural appropriation and Black art that falls under the white gaze, it’s important to bring the conversation back to Black people creating for Black people and what that means for us.

You can buy a copy from Bookshop (affiliate link) or head to the book’s official MIT Press page for more stockists.

Black British people from the Windrush era are the focus of a new photo exhibition at Wrest Park

Two black people greeting each other in a museum.
Gestural Greetings © Kemka Ajoku

London-based artist Kemka Ajoku put together a photo exhibition highlighting the lives of Black British people living in the UK following the Windrush era as part of a wider exhibition.

Called England’s New Lenses, it’s part of a major exhibition at four English Heritage sites across the country: Wrest Park in Silsoe, Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, Middleham Castle in Yorkshire and Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, where photographers challenge the definition of heritage.

The exhibition started on 5th August 5 and runs until 31st October (likely to coincide with Black History Month) so if you can, get down to Wrest Park.

Wrest Park location on Google Maps

(via Bedford Today)

The pioneering designs of Thomas Miller

Motorola, Bauer & Black, and 7 Up—just some of the names that Thomas Miller worked on during his career at Goldsholl Associates. He’s also best known for his mosaics in the lobby of the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago. The Black American designer worked on everything from logo design to animation, but, like many of his peers in the 20th century, his journey was fraught with racism:

“I had to be super-qualified,” he told Fitzpatrick. “I took things in art that weren’t necessary, like airbrushing and retouching and things you didn’t have to do because I wanted to be prepared in case someone would ask me to. They couldn’t use that as an excuse for me being not qualified.” In the design profession, he discovered another rigid color line: a racism more genteel than a Klan march but no less degrading for the young professional. The Ray-Vogue School, for instance, limited the number of Black students who could enroll. On the job market, Miller experienced racism in moments that could have come from the pages of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. “You’re very talented,” one prospective employer told Miller. “Too bad you are so dark.” Another suggested he could work but only behind a screen, out of sight from clients. 

via AIGA Eye on Design

AIGA awarded Miller the 2021 AIGA Medal for his pioneering work in the design industry.

Read more about Thomas Miller on the Chicago Design Archive website and SoulFul Design.

Johnson Eziefula on his art and his relationship with identity

“Gloria’s Trip to Paris” – Mixed-media on Canvas. (2021)

Johnson Eziefula is a Nigerian artist who uses mixed-media to display the various elements of life and identity:

“I find my major inspiration as an artist in a mix of my environment and its components,” he adds, citing people and their social, behavioural and cultural characteristics as key drivers to his creations. “Environment in this case goes beyond my immediate physical environment. But as far as a totally different region or space, the world as of today has grown smaller and we’re much more interconnected than ever before.” Johnson is also inspired by his own emotions and imagination, along with his daily observations and encounters, plus the “endless conflict between one’s understanding of what is and the unending curiosities, amongst other things. It’s an endless list.”

via It’s Nice That

Eziefula calls himself a “Biographer of the unnoticed” on Instagram, using materials like charcoal, acrylic, pastels, and fabric to create his pieces.

Sampira on Britain’s Art(ifact) Problem

Sammy Willbourne aka Sampira wrote about the various issues with British museums exhibiting stolen artifacts from countries around the world including the Kingdom of Benin (now modern-day Nigeria, not to be mistaken with Benin), Greece, Easter Island, and Egypt:

When you look at a mummy encased in a glass prison, you must wonder, did they ever make it to the afterlife? Or is this their fate, to be trapped behind a glass case of voyeurism, looked upon by people that do not understand them or the life and culture they lived in, whilst their soul becomes weary of never crossing over?

These artifacts are astonishing. They give us a portal into new worlds. More than this, they give us a portal into the very ground we stand on. We were born on. An empire built on spoils from murder and a spiteful tendency to destroy any cultural, historical, or intellectual significance these spectacular civilizations gave us in art, science, maths, literature, and everything else. As long as they are on our soil, they stand as a testament to a psychosis that people still haven’t woken up from. There is no reason they can not go home. There’s no reason they can not be toured collaboratively and respectfully with the countries that do own them. If the countries say no, we must accept this as an apparent tolerant and respectable country. It is the rightful respect and appreciation for other cultures and customs that we are told we have.

Sonya Clark's Black hair art

Sonya Clark, “Afro Abe II” (2010), five-dollar bill and thread, 4 x 6 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection (Photo © Sonya Clark; Photo by Lee Stalsworth)

For Hyperallergic, Lowery Stokes Sims reviewed Sonya Clark’s exhibition “Sonya Clark: Tatter, Bristle and Mend which featured at the National Museum of Women in Arts between 3rd March to 27th June this year.

Renowned for her explorations of the cultural and political aspects of hair — specifically Black hair — Clark does not disappoint in this dizzying survey of 100 works executed over the last 25 years. Essays in the catalogue adroitly outline the polemics of black hair in its natural state in our current societal context, complement Clark’s seeming endless hirsute permutations.

The pieces are remarkable in their depictions of the US and their uses of Black hair, something heavily weaponised and abused in that same country. My favourite is “Afro Abe II” (above), a five-dollar bill but Abraham Lincoln has an Afro. I love it so much.

gal-dem on visual artists depicting life in Jamaica

Happy Jamaican Independence Day!

For gal-dem, Pacheanne Anderson compiled a list of filmmakers, artists, and photographers showcasing life in Jamaica from the Blue Mountains to the troubled streets:

There are of course many artists belonging to the Caribbean diaspora working and living in the US and UK such as Karen Mc Lean, Terrell Villiers and RIP Germain (all of whom are worth a mention in this arena). However, here, we are focusing on artists living and working on the island. Artists who take a close look into Jamaican lifestyle in all its facets, from the spirituality found within the bushes high up in the mountains, to the political and economic turmoil present in the depths of parts of its most celebrated towns like Kingston.

There’s some amazing work on the list so go check out the article on gal-dem. And Jamdown forever!

Black Archives: a multimedia showcase of the Black experience

Archiving is so important in an information era that favours the new and quickly discards the old when it’s deemed surplus to requirements (read: it’s not making profit). This is especially true for Black cultures and Black Archives works to change that.

[…] Through an evolving visual exploration, Black Archives provides a dynamic accessibility to a Black past, present, and future.

Going beyond the norm, its lens examines the nuance of Black life: alive and ever-vibrant to both the everyday and iconic — providing insight and inspiration to those seeking to understand the legacies that preceded their own.

Besides archiving, Black Archives also offers:

  • Content creation and visual curation
  • Archival research and licensing
  • Social strategy and creative direction

For more, check out the Black Archives website.

The celebratory art of Aurélia Durand

Aurélia Durand is a French illustrator with a penchant for vibrant designs depicting Black people in joyful, proud, and empowered poses.

Her client list is a who’s who of major brands, including:

With so much bleakness in the world at the moment and heightened Black trauma, vivid celebratory images like Aurélia’s are a welcome relief and a reminder that Blackness is multifaceted and joyous.

Maro Itoje presented an exhibition on Black histories missing from the UK curriculum

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition earlier this month, Itoje, who was educated at the private boarding school Harrow, says one of the constants in his schooling was “the lack of Black and African history that I was taught”. Moreover, when African history was on the syllabus, it was “a single story or narrative that was told”. He adds: “That story was often depressing, and quite often a saviour/survivor narrative. I want to try and show a fuller picture.”

Good on you, Maro!

(via The Art Newspaper)

Black Art: In the Absence of Light on HBO

Black Art: In the Absence of Light (2021) | Official Trailer | HBO

Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light offers an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today.

Featured artists include Kara Walker, Jordan Casteel, and Kerry James Marshall.

Solange turns Saint Heron into a multidisciplinary creative agency

Exciting news for Black and Brown creativity:

Originally launched in 2013 as a digital hub for cultural conversations, Saint Heron’s mission has been to preserve, collect, and uplift stories, works, and archives that amplify Black and brown voices. Now, in its next phase, it will release a dossier of literary and visual retrospectives of Black family and artist lineages through a series of temporary digital exhibitions, viewable on the Saint Heron website. Available for seven to 10 days, they will offer an in-depth look at emerging talent across art, sculpture, photography, design, and artisanship.