'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.

A UK Black History Month Post (2021)

I’m going to quote myself from last year because it’s still relevant:

It’s been a challenging year to navigate and, needless to say, Black people are tired.

I’ve not really written anything specific about Black History Month this year but I have thrown in some Black British content here and there. So I’m going to emulate last year’s BHM round up post for 2021. It’s been tough finding decent BHM content because so much of it is whitewashed or performative. People are retreading the same steps and the same “look at these famous slaves!” lists of influential Black people, often written by white people. Or pledges for more action that were made last year and the year before. I’m also not pleased about a few articles regarding more Black presence in the police force which is the most counterintuitive suggestion to make in any month, let alone Black History Month. But I digress.

Same format as last year—some stuff from the Web, some stuff from the Cultrface archives, and people you should follow.

From the Internet

From the Cultrface archives

People to follow

See 2020’s list for more people to follow

  1. Demi Colleen: Twitter | Instagram
  2. Kuchenga: Twitter | Instagram
  3. Emma Dabiri: Twitter | Instagram
  4. Sareta Fontaine: Twitter | Instagram | Website
  5. Lauren-Nicole: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  6. Nathaniel A. Cole: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  7. Matilda Egere-Cooper: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  8. Tanya Compas: Twitter | Instagram
  9. Nicole Crentsil: Twitter | Instagram | Linktree
  10. Ronke Lawal: Twitter | Instagram | Website

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.

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)

Community through food from people of colour

Catharine Hughes looked at the various UK community food projects headed by people of colour:

“Community is the act of coming together, but for me, it’s the coming together to achieve something,” says Fahima Jilani, the owner of Mosa Mosa, a Bengali food platform based in the West Midlands. Fahima began Mosa Mosa back in 2017, born out of a love for food passed down through her family. Initially, she was working at markets and catering small events like birthdays, and then the British Red Cross approached her to ask if she would be interested in providing meals for teenage asylum seekers, who were attending guidance sessions.

“These asylum seekers come predominantly from East African countries like Sudan, Eritrea, and I think they do genuinely appreciate spicy food, and I bring them South Asian food that is also spicy. Although it’s not the same culture as theirs, I think it’s comforting,” says Fahima.

Black British LGBTQ+ community deserves better on-screen portrayals, says Nana Duncan

The UK film industry rarely commissions Black stories because they do not believe that our stories have an audience, and I find that astonishing. Black people are the drivers of culture, and we deserve to be represented. The only stories they seem to commission are the ones about gang violence to further perpetuate the falsehood that is Black on Black crime.

It is crucial that we explore alternative narratives to represent the multitude of nuanced Black experiences in our society. Being a womxn is one thing, being Black and British is another. My queerness adds another dimension to my identity. I am not Black before I am queer, I am not queer before I am Black, I am a queer Black British womxn.

(via Pink News)

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)

Julie Adenuga on Catfish UK and the new rules of romance

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures but Catfish was a rare exception. Even though I know it’s predominately fake and mostly for clout-chasing, it was still wild, messy, dramatic and fun. Now we’re getting a UK version, co-hosted by Julie Adenuga, and she spoke to gal-dem’s Adwoa Darko about the show and romance.

The presenter wants viewers to watch the show through an empathetic lens. “Anyone I said ‘I’m hosting catfish, UK’ to, their first reaction was ‘oh my gosh, it’s gonna be so funny’. That’s their first reaction. And I look at them,” she says before pausing. “These are real emotions.” She also understands how the road to dating someone is often paved with half-truths as she’s had a few people lie to her about knowing her two brothers without knowing she’s related to them (“now you look like the biggest clown of all time”).

We all learnt the rules of the game from Nev: reverse Google image search people if you’re unsure, video call them, ignore people with only one picture because it’s 2021 and everyone has a camera phone. However, through working on the show Julie reveals she’s learnt a new one: “Tagged photos really became our friends. We’ve had profiles sometimes when we see they’ve got 2,000 followers and only one person has tagged you. What’s going on there?”

Bad times for Adwoa, though, who opened the interview with an admission: she had been catfished.

gal-dem: Lets start with the fact that I was catfished

Julie Adenuga: When did this happen?

I met this guy from Ghana right. I was thinking ‘rah we’re gonna do up Kente get ready’. He said he’s single and later he drops that he has kids and an ex-wife that has gone off and married somebody else, and the kids are in Ghana. We go on the date and this man is doing the most, he’s like toasting to us and I’m thinking ‘rah is this me yeah?’

No one has ever toasted to us. This is live.

Read the rest of the interview to find out what happened and stream the Catfish UK promo below.

Meet Catfish UK Hosts Julie Adenuga And Oobah Butler | Catfish UK

Roy Mehta's 'Revival' explores Brent's multiculturalism between 1989–93

Revival book cover

Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.

During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”

Quote from It’s Nice That

Revival: London 1989-1993 is available from Hoxton Mini Press and on Amazon. There will also be an exhibition of the work in March 2022 (you can check some of the photos from there too).

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

A Quick Ting On: a non-fiction series focused on Black British culture

Jacaranda Books is set to release A Quick Ting On, their first non-fiction series dedicated to Black British culture. The series has been curated by Magdalene Abraha and features the likes of Chanté Joseph (!!!), Tobi Kyeremateng (!!!), and Sophia Tassew (!!!)

Here are the eight books and their release dates:

  • A Quick Ting On: Afrobeats by Christian Adofo (7th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Plantain by Rui Da Silva (22nd October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Power Movement by Chanté Joseph (28th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: The Black Girl Afro by Zainab Kway-Swanzy (4th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Businesses by Tskenya-Sarah Frazer (12th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Theatre Sh*t by Tobi Kyeremateng (19th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Grime by Franklyn Addo (2022)
  • A Quick Ting On: Bamboo Earrings by Sophia Tassew (2022)

This is exactly what we need and I’m so excited for this series and everyone involved. I’ll update with links as and when they come up.

What are you doing, Lenny?

(Original tweet here)

Earlier today, I noticed a Lenny Henry tweet on my timeline. I went onto his profile just to see what he was up to and came across the above tweet.

On the surface, it looks like a comedian/writer/actor retweeting another comedian/writer referencing another writer. But you’d have to know little about David Baddiel or Caitlin Moran to take this on face value and not see what’s wrong with it.

Caitlin Moran, when once asked if she addressed the “complete and utter lack of people of colour in girls” in her interview with Girls creator Lena Dunham on Twitter, she replied “Nope. I literally couldn’t give a shit about it.” There’s a more measured critique of the situation by Bim Adewunmi but it caused a shitstorm and many of Moran’s colleagues came out to defend her in the name of white feminism.

In the 90s, David Baddiel did Blackface to portray Jason Lee, a footballer who played for Nottingham Forest at the time. Lee discussed the incident in 2018:

“If I did there’d be no animosity, but I’d ask them if they realised the significance of what they were doing.

“It was, looking back, a form of bullying. I work in equalities now, and it can affect different people in different ways.

“I don’t think people appreciate the possible harm it can cause. Not everyone has the make-up to deal with that, and they shouldn’t have to.

“With me, there was always something – if it wasn’t my hair, it was the colour of my skin or my height, and it made me resilient.

“What did they expect me to do? Give up my career? I was always going to continue and I played until I was 40 – I have to remind people of that.”

To then see the pair in agreement that people cherrypick the historical inaccuracies in period dramas—particularly the Black people in Bridgerton—is peak hypocrisy. Now Moran “gives a shit”!

It’d be nice if they’d become better people after their behaviour but I don’t think they have. And then to see Lenny Henry retweet it just rubbed me up the wrong way.

See also: The gentrification of BLM and the semiotics and myths around All Lives Matter and BLM.

Bridget Minamore's "When Will Theatre Come Black?"

bridget minamore

Presented by Bridget Minamore (Lines of Resistance, Titanic), When Will Theatre Come Black? is a look at Black theatre in Britain and the people that make it great:

Setting out her vision, Bridget asks if the confluence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the devastating impact of the pandemic on the theatre industry might be an opportunity to build a more egalitarian theatre sector with greater opportunity for black makers, performers, backstage workers, and audiences – and, as a consequence, for other marginalised groups.

The radio production features thoughts from the likes of Tobi Kyeremateng, Kwame Kwei Armah, Paulette Randall MBE and Roy Alexander Weise MBE, amongst others.

Listen to it on the BBC Sounds website.

"Why Didn't You Tell Me?" a podcast about the miseducation of life

Felix Prince, Thierry Ngutegure, and Tinashe Nyamande sitting on a sofa

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Thierry Ngutegure in person so I was thrilled to see he had co-created a podcast:

“Why Didn’t You Tell Me?” is a fun, open and honest look at how three young men who thought the stuff they were taught in school would prepare them to be successful, confident and stable young adults. Little did they know that Pythagoras theorem wouldn’t help them buy houses and Henry VIII wouldn’t get them work experience. The transition into adulthood is abrupt and real world knowledge is the true key – so let’s shift the balance. This platform pokes fun, educates and inspires the next and current generation.

Thierry is joined by co-hosts Felix Prince and Tinashe Nyamande and, in his own words, he wanted to “create a space to inspire and push young black people”, “talk about the stupid shit he’d done, the things we wish we’d known & how we uplift each other today.” That’s what we like to see.

You can like and subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, YouTube, and follow the trio on Instagram.

Related: The Nerd Council: an online platform for Black nerds, The Black-Archivist project, and Afrodrops: a Black-owned shop for Afro hair.