Saturday, 24 October 2015

Bringing the Black Back!

Personal Insight: read a stirring exploration of the exhibitions themes, backgrounds and aims from Colin Prescod, a sociologist and Chair of the Institute of Race Relations. A trustee of FHALMA, he's been involved with the exhibition from its inception. 

With “No Colour Bar/Black British Art in Action, 1960 to 1990”, FHALMA is delivering what promises to be a historic art and archive exhibition. The exhibition, with its rich 6 month events and education programme, sets out to be deliberately provocative, in the very best sense – conceptually mixing art and archive; polemically proclaiming Black Britishness; aesthetically blending art and politics.

The polemical provocation is a debating hot potato - bringing the Black back, and at the some time, bringing the Black forward! This particular Black being invoked here existed briefly but powerfully from the 1950s to the 1980s – and only in Britain. This is a Black that side-stepped the White invented ‘race’ notion, and which threatened to mash-up the divisive racial paradigm pressed on us all as part and parcel of a colonial-imperialist plan. This Black was a political colour – not some tricksy, coded, put-down skin colour. This Black was a militant, assertive, passionate colour of resistance – resistance to racism, to unfair discrimination, to denial of citizens’ rights, to systematic injustice and to political exclusion. This Black could and did include Africans, Indians, Caribbeans, Pakistanis, Latin Americans, and even Irish people. It generated a community of Blackness specific to Britain. This was a Black that unified and defined the spirit of a Black community that raged against crude everyday racisms – eventually fueling the urban rebellions of the 1970s and 1980s, which embarrassed and shamed the establishment.

Back in the day, somewhere in the 1960s – on the other side of what has been newly dubbed the Black Atlantic, the militantly inventive `Haitian/African- American piano jazz musician, Andrew Hill, sagely ventured “You can best extend a heritage by understanding its past thoroughly”. The “No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960 to 1990”is doing its bit!

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