For Black History Month, in line with MeWe’s activity all year round, we are putting together a compilation of artworks (books, film, theatre, dance, photography, art… you name it!) from the creative industries that deepen our knowledge of Black History.
We think the arts and creative industries have a huge part to play in representation and celebration of black communities and this month we share some great examples.
Over the course of the month, we invite our network to submit their favourite pieces of creative work which has informed and strengthened their understanding of Black History.
Visit our Instagram stories to see the submissions!
How to submit: email firstname.lastname@example.org with an image, title and name of artist for the creative piece you want to highlight. If you can share a sentence on why the artwork is important to you, that would be fantastic.
The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C L R James (1938). Trinidadian historian C L R James recounts the history of the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804. When writing it in the 1930s, James says it was “intended to stimulate the coming emancipation of Africa.”
Phoenix Dance Theatre performs Sharon Watson’s Windrush: Movement of the People, the first contemporary dance work to explore the narrative of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush that brought the first Caribbean migrants to the UK. This piece was premiered in 2018.
Timewasters – “By taking a four piece black jazz band from present day and sending them back in time to the 1920s it was able to look at racism in a self-aware, direct and comedic way. I belly-laughed at this and completely missed season 2 when it was on as it just wasn’t advertised.” – Tom Adeyoola
Created by Daniel Lawrence Taylor.
Watchmen (2019) by Damon Lindelof leads off from the Tulsa race massacre of 1921 (I spent a lot of time after reading up on this last year before BLM and Trump deciding to walk all over it, brought this moment back into the spotlight) and imagines an alternative dystopian world of superheroes where race reparations happened. Episode 6 I think is one of the most incredible episodes of TV I have seen. The themes of race, inheritance, legacy are just so powerfully writ large in this fantastical mini-series. Again, by placing the action in an alternate reality it allows the production to play with themes in a way that couldn’t otherwise be done.” – Tom Adeyoola
“His work Cion is a revelation.” – Farooq Chaudry OBE
The piece “confronts a universe in which greed, power and religion lead so often to the normalisation of death and loss. (…) Maqoma, who sees art as a commentary on how human beings treat each other, created this soaring piece as a response to recent political events in his own country and globally.” (source: the Barbican)
The Green & Black Ambassadors project is a Bristol-based project which seeks to engage the local Black community in environmental issues by using a participatory research methodology and photography to engage the voices of those who are normally unheard in the Green movement.
“I focused my Masters’ thesis on the Green & Black Photovoice project back in 2018. Through research and interviews with the project leaders Zakiya McKenzie and Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley, from Ujima Radio, I learnt a great deal about the ongoing racial issues that still existed as a result of a long history of slavery and racial injustice.” – Martine Stephen
Thirteeenth – the full feature documentary made by Ava DuVernay shines a light on the contemporary prison system in the US and reveals how the 13th Amendment managed to retain a form of enslavement by mass incarcerating African-American men.
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.”
Come Back, Africa (1959) by Lionel Rogosin in collaboration with Can Themba, Lewis Nkosi and Bloke Modisane (writers associated with the pioneering Drum Magazine). The film was shot in 1950s apartheid South Africa.
Mangrove by Steve McQueen retells the landmark court case of the Mangrove Nine, 50 years after their trial in 1970. The group of black British activists were accused of inciting a riot at a protest against police harassment at the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, London.
“The Head of the Undersecretary” by Ibrahim el-Salahi, a Sudanese painter. El-Salahi is widely recognised as the Godfather of African modernism. He is known for his visual art, inspired from his time with the Khartoum School of African Modernism and the Hurufiyya art movement, which sought to combine traditional forms of Islamic calligraphy with contemporary artworks.
One of his works is “The Head of the Undersecretary” (2000) which presents a surreal language that draws attention to the inner mind. The faces suggest a spiritual dimension: in el-Salahi’s art, human existence is linked to a world of dreams and meditations.”
Women, Race & Class (1981) by political activist Angela Y. Davis provides a seminal history of race, gender and class inequality and offers an alternative view of female struggles for liberation.
“South Africa” – Sibande’s work not only engages as an interrogator of the current intersections of race, gender and labour in South Africa; but continues to actively rewrite her own family’s legacy of forced domestic work imposed by the then Apartheid State.
‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ by Yinka Shonibare CBE, was a scale (1:30) replica of HMS Victory in a bottle. It was the first commission by a black British artist, and the first to reflect on its setting. Trafalgar Square commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, and links directly with Nelson’s column. The ship’s 37 large sails were made of patterned textiles typical of African dress. They are used to show African identity and independence. The work considers the legacy of British colonialism and its expansion in trade and Empire. This was made possible through the freedom of the seas and the new trade routes that Nelson’s victory provided. It now has a permanent home at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.