Lisa Anderson has been a curator in hiding for at least the past 10 years. In 2001 she steered away from an academic path following degrees in International Relations and then Human Rights at Masters level, which where fuelled by her passion for critical cultural theory and the practical application of creative self expression as a resource for social justice. Ever since she’s been living life as a pseudo double agent carving out a successful career as a fundraising/business development expert for the voluntary and cultural sectors working for organisations such as Breast Cancer Care, Crisis, The Natural History Museum and latterly The Children’s Society, whilst participating as an enthusiast at seminal arts conferences and exhibitions pertaining to contemporary African Diaspora arts practice. She is currently developing a platform to mobilise and document the current reality of emerging contemporary Black British arts practice.
Dr. Mora J. Beauchamp-Byrd is Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History and Curatorial Studies at Spelman College. Prior to that appointment, she was Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University from 2014-2015. Beauchamp-Byrd completed a B.A. in Art History and an M.A. in Visual Arts Administration at New York University. She has also earned an M.A. in Art History from Columbia University. In 2011, she completed a Ph.D. in Art History at Duke University in the Department of Art, Art History and Visual Studies.
An art historian, curator, and arts administrator, she served as Interim Executive Director at the New Orleans African American Museum of Art, Culture and History (NOAAM) prior to her Visiting Assistant Professor appointment at Duke. From 2008 through 2013, she served as Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Art, and Curator of University Art Collections at Xavier University of Louisiana. From 2005 through 2007, she was Assistant Director for Mellon Initiatives in the Research and Academic Program (RAP) at The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA.
From June 1999 through July of 2001, she was Director and Curator of the Visual Arts Department at the Amistad Research Center, Tulane University in New Orleans, La. In this capacity, she oversaw the development of exhibitions and accompanying public programs of the Center’s extensive collection of 19th and 20th century African American and traditional African art, which includes works by Edward Mitchell Bannister, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, John T. Scott and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
She has had a wealth of experience within the curatorial and administrative departments of numerous cultural institutions including The Caribbean Cultural Center (NY), where she was Curator and Director of Special Projects; the Bronx Museum of the Arts; The Studio Museum in Harlem (NY); the Museum of the City of New York, and The Drawing Center (NY). At The Caribbean Cultural Center, she was curator of the exhibition Transforming the Crown: African, Asian and Caribbean Artists in Britain, 1966-1996, and developed its accompanying public programs and major catalogue. The exhibition was on view at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Caribbean Cultural Center and the Studio Museum in Harlem from October 1997 through March 1998.
Beauchamp-Byrd has served as curator of numerous exhibitions including Struggle and Serenity: The Visionary Art of Elizabeth Catlett; The Worldview of Katherine Dunham; Transcending Silence: The Life and Poetic Legacy of Audre Lorde; Africa’s Legacy: Photographs from Brazil and Peru by Lorry Salcedo-Mitrani; Petrona Morrison and Veronica Ryan: Sculptural Works; Selections from the Aaron Douglas Collection at the Amistad Research Center; Martin Payton: Twenty Years of Sculpture; When I Am Not Here/Estoy Alla: Photographs by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons; Raised to the Trade: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans; A Celebration of Faith: Henriette Delille and the Sisters of the Holy Family; John T. Scott: Selections from the Fine Art Collections at Xavier University; Conjuring Women: Gender and Representation in the Fine Art Collections at Xavier University and EPaul Julien: A Ten-Year Retrospective.
Professor Sonia Boyce, MBE, is an artist and Chair of Black Art and Design at the University of the Arts London. In the broadest sense, her research interests lie in art as a social practice and the critical and contextual debates that arise from this burgeoning field. Since the 1990s her own art practice has relied on working with other people in collaborative and participatory situations, often demanding of those collaborators spontaneity and unrehearsed performative actions. Working across media, mainly drawing, print, photography, video and sound, she recoups the remains of these performative gestures – the leftovers, the documentation – to make the art works, which are often concerned with the relationship between sound and memory, the dynamics of space, and incorporating the spectator.
Abbreviated exhibitions and writings include: ‘Sonia Boyce: Speaking in Tongues’, (Gilane Tawadros, Kala Press, 1997); ‘Annotations 2/Sonia Boyce: Performance’, (ed. Mark Crinson, Iniva – the Institute of International Visual Arts, 1998); ‘Recent Sonia Boyce: la, la, la’, Reed College, Portland – Oregon (2001); ‘Century City: art and culture in the modern metropolis’, Tate Modern, London (2001); ‘Sharjah International Bienal 7’, Sharjah (2005); ‘Devotional’, National Portrait Gallery, London (2007); ‘Crop Over’, Harewood House, Leeds and Barbados Museum & Historical Society (2007/2008); ‘For you, only you’ (ed. Paul Bonaventura, Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Art, Oxford University and tour, 2007/2008), ‘Praxis: Art in Times of Uncertainty’, Thessaloniki Biennal 2, Greece (2009); ‘Sonia Boyce and Crop Over’ (Allison Thompson, Small Axe, Volume 13, Number 2, 2009); ‘Like Love’, Spike Island, Bristol and tour (ed. Axel Lapp, Green Box Press, Berlin, 2010); ‘Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic’, Tate Liverpool and tour (2010); ‘Black Sound White Cube’, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Berlin (2011); ‘8+8 Contemporary International Video Art’, 53 Museum, Quangzhou (2011); ‘The Impossible Community’, Moscow Museum of Modern Art (2011); ‘Migrations: Journeys into British Art’, Tate Britain (2012); ‘There is no archive in which nothing gets lost’, Museum of Fine Art Houston (2012); and ‘Keywords’, Rivington Place, London (2013).
Over the past 30 years, Sonia has taught Fine Art studio practice from undergraduate level to PhD practice-based research, in many art colleges across the UK. Between 1996-2002, as a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of East London, she was a Director of AAVAA (the African and Asian Visual Artists Archive), managing a Research Centre on the work of contemporary artists of African and Asian descent working in the UK. From 2004-2005 she was a NESTA Artist Fellow – NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – where she was researching the social dynamics of collaboration in art. In 2007, she, along with David A Bailey and Ian Baucom jointly received the History of British Art Book Prize (USA) for the edited volume ‘Shades of Black: Assembling Black Art in 1980s Britain’, published by Duke University Press in collaboration with Iniva and AAVAA, and in the same year received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Between 2008-2011, she completed an AHRC Research Fellowship on the ephemeral nature of collaborative practice in art at the Centre for Drawing, Wimbledon College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London, with a concluding project ‘The Future is Social’ (2011). She is currently Principal Investigator of the three year AHRC funded ‘Black Artists and Modernism’ research project.
Dr. Alice Correia is a Research Fellow at the University of Salford. Her current research examines British art in the 1980s, with a specific focus on South Asian diaspora art histories. She has been awarded a mid-career fellowship from The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in order to undertake a project titled “Articulating British Asian Art Histories”. She received her doctorate from the University of Sussex in 2006; her thesis examined contemporary art, (post)colonial identities and Britishness and she curated the exhibition Being British at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery in 2009. She has extensive experience teaching under- and post-graduate Art History and has also worked at the Government Art Collection, and Tate Britain, where she undertook a land-mark two year research project on Henry Moore
Dr Anjalie Dalal‐Clayton is a post‐doctoral fellow with the AHRC research project Black Artists and Modernism ‐ a partnership between University of the Arts London and Middlesex University. Her current work sees her researching black artists’ individual practices and artworks, and investigating the inclusion of black artists in UK public collections. She completed her doctorate in 2015, which examined how recent exhibitions have critically and historically positioned black artists in relation to British art history. Before beginning her doctorate, she worked in a variety of museums, galleries and cultural organisations, including Tate Modern’s ongoing capital project.
Yassmin V. Foster is a creative producer, international dance artist and scholar, based in London. She has worked progressively in the arts and culture sector since 1992: her passion, skill and experience have taken her from urban London to South America, Asia and Europe, on cultural exchange, artist development projects and research. Yassmin advocates for movement and dance as intangible cultural heritage and champions cross cultural and multi art-form collaborative journeys.
She holds a BA (Hons) Anthropology and Media, and in 2015 graduated from the two-year international masters programme MA Choreomundus, which investigates dance and other movement systems within the broader contexts of Ethnochoreology, the Anthropology of Dance, Dance Studies, and Heritage Studies. Her research investigates black dance within the wider dance ecology of the UK, in particular the application of movement and contextual analysis to current practice, to explore ways that will support and enhance pedagogical methods and mediation.
Dr. Josie Gill is lecturer in Black British Writing of the 20th and 21st centuries at the University of Bristol. She joined the department of English in 2014, having completed her PhD at the University of Cambridge. Her research interests are in contemporary literature, particularly Black British and African American writing and her current research project examines the relationship between scientific and fictional engagements with race in Britain and the United States since the 1970s. She is also Principal Investigator of the AHRC funded project ‘Literary Archaeology’: Exploring the Lived Environment of the Slave, which bring together archaeological scientists, creative writers and literary scholars to develop a new, interdisciplinary approach to the study of the lives of the enslaved.
Josie’s article ‘Science and Fiction in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth’ was awarded an Honourable Mention in the Journal of Literature and Science and British Society for Literature and Science Essay Prize 2013. She has also published articles in Modern Fiction Studies and Textual Practice. In April 2014 she became a member of the committee of the British Society for Literature and Science.
Davinia Gregory is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Cultural Policy Studies at the University of Warwick. Her ESRC funded project is held in collaboration with The Drum Arts Centre in Birmingham UK, and is concerned with cultural diversity in the arts. Prior to beginning her doctorate, Davinia taught History of Design at Bath Spa university and her most recently published work is a book chapter entitled “An Empire of One’s Own: Individuality and domestic built form in 21st century Jamaica”, within the Grace Lees Maffei and Kjetil Fallan book Designing Worlds: National Design Histories in an era of Globalisation (Berghahn books, 2016).
Professor Lubaina Himid, MBE, is an artist and Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. As a painter, writer and curator Lubaina Himid has participated at an international level in exhibitions conferences books and films on the visual art of the Black Diaspora since the early 1980’s.
Naming the Money(2004) which also appeared as part of the V&A exhibition Uncomfortable Truths (2007), Swallow Hard : The Lancaster Dinner service (2007) and Talking on Corners Speaking in Tongues (2007) were all central to the cultural events surrounding the commemoration of the 200th anniversary the Abolition of the Slave Trade in Britain.
Her contribution to the publication (2005) and conference(2001) Shades of Black Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain at Duke University in the U.S.A. spoke of the importance of black artists archiving the history of their own visual contribution.
In Fabrications at CUBE in Manchester a group show in which with her monumental installation Cotton. Com (2002) she explored the tangible yet hidden links between the factories in Manchester and the fields of Carolina. For Inside the Invisible (2001) commissioned by The Leprosy Museum in Bergen she examined the twin dilemmas of identity and belonging, which developed out of the questions asked in the solo exhibitions Plan B at Tate St Ives and Zanzibar at Oriel Mostyn in 2000.; how can you tell the difference between safety and danger.
Curating exhibitions and small interventions in spaces such as the Bowes Museum County Durham (2004) and educational, cultural and community venues in the north west has recently been central to her practice as a visual art facilitator and cultural activist.
As part of the larger project started in the early 80’s with shows such as the Thin Black Line (1986) and Black Woman Time Now(1983) devised to highlight the contribution black artists have made to visual art in Britain, she has with Susan Walsh in collaboration with the Interpretation and Education Team at Tate Liverpool, produced and distributed Open Sesame (2005) and The Point of Collection (2007) These are two DVD/text research documents which examine and reveal the contribution made to the exhibition education and collecting strategies at Tate in recent decades by artists of African, African/American, Asian and Caribbean descent.
Lubaina Himid’s work has been profiled as part of the #100 Works that Belong to You project which celebrates 12 years of acquisitions by the Outset/Frieze Art Fair Fund to benefit the Tate Collection (OFT). 100 works by 69 artists were acquired for the National Collection by OFT between 2003 and 2014 and the video profiling Lubaina’s work can be accessed via Vimeo
Valda Jackson explores her history, one shared by many child migrants throughout time and the impact this has on them today.Her concerns relate to dislocation and identity, employing memory and fragments of history to re-call and re-imagine the past, present and future through visual art, writing and performance. The work calls upon her experience of a Jamaican British heritage, of growing up in a culture that sits, at times uncomfortably, within another that is larger, dominant, and imperial, exploring the possibility of a conclusion, and eventual or possible liberation.Recurring are images of the child at play, her playthings about her – and Seated Women’; black women who sit, maybe dreaming. The women do not toil, cry, nor mourn. They do not dance, entertain nor serve. They are not objectified, and they wait on no master, nor mistress, madam or whore. Jackson’s work is about our existence. It’s about survival and dignity, individual entitlement and privilege.
Melanie Keen is Director of Iniva, London. Her career spans two decades in the visual arts as a curator, consultant, an arts funding manager and was a Senior Relationship Manager at Arts Council England. Her independent curatorial projects focused on collaborative practices and process-based approaches to making work. These projects include A Better Place? with Erika Tan and Melissa Bliss for Bow Festival/Space; and 48 Hours, Tablet Gallery, London including Jacqueline Donachie, Mary Evans, Ella Gibbs, muf, Tomoko Takahashi and Jessica Voorsanger. Other projects include the production of a national education resource, which uses contemporary art and culture to explore the history and legacies of the transatlantic slave trade, for Understanding Slavery, National Maritime Museum, London; Necessary Journeys, an Arts Council England initiative in collaboration with BFI Black World which included artists’ residencies in film archives with Jackie Kay, susan pui san lok and Keith Piper; commissioning a film score by Courtney Pine for film classic Borderline; and an international symposium in collaboration with Tate Modern. She has contributed to a range of publications as a writer and editor.
She was Projects Curator at Iniva until 2003; exhibitions and commissions included Simon Tegala’s Anabiosis, Keith Piper’s Relocating the Remains, and Yinka Shonibare’s Diary of a Victorian Dandy. She worked closely with a number of artists on commissions for The Space@Iniva including Farah Bajull, Eduardo Padilha, Janette Parris, Alia Syed and Mayling To.
Before joining Iniva in 1997, she co-edited and compiled the publication Recordings: A Select Bibliography of Contemporary African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian British Art published by Iniva and Chelsea College of Art. She completed her MA in Curating Contemporary Art at the Royal College of Art in 1995.
Dr. Roshini Kempadoo is a photographer, media artist, and lecturer. Her research, multimedia, and photographic projects combine factual and fictional re-imaginings of contemporary experiences with history and memory. Having worked as a social documentary photographer for the Format Women’s Picture Agency, her recent work as a digital image artist includes photographs and screen-based interactive art installations that fictionalise Caribbean archive material, objects, and spaces. They combine sound, animations, and interactive use of objects, to introduce characters that once may have existed, evoking hidden and untold narratives. She is represented by Autograph ABP, London.
Ella S. Mills’ doctoral research involves the 1980s surge of creative practice and activity now referred to by many as a ‘British Black Arts Movement’, focusing specifically on the negotiations and interventions of women artists of colour. Her thesis is centred on the early careers of artists such as Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Ingrid Pollard, and Maud Sulter, and their participation in/relationship to the 1985 ICA exhibition, The Thin Black Line alongside the 2011/12 exhibition, Thin Black L|ne(s) at Tate Britain. Ella holds a BA English Literature (University of East Anglia), BA Fine Art & Art History (University of Plymouth), and an MA Art History from University of Leeds.
Dr. Dorothy Price is Reader in History of Art at the University of Bristol, where she is the leader of the Transnational Modernisms Research Cluster. She is currently editing a new book entitled German Expressionism: Der Blaue Reiter and its Legacies which had its origins in a major international conference co-organised with Dr Christopher Short (UWIC) and Dr Marko Daniel at Tate Modern, London in Autumn 2011 to celebrate the centenary of the publication of Der Blaue Reiter Almanac. Speakers at the conference included leading experts in the field of German Expressionism, Professor Peter Vergo, Dr Annegret Hoberg, Professor Rose-Carol Washton Long, Dr Shulamith Behr and international performance artist Stelarc, amongst others.
She is also working on a new exhibition with Dr Jill Lloyd (London) and Dr Christian Weikop (Edinburgh) entitled German Expressionism: The Cult of Youth and with the National Portrait Gallery on a collaborative doctoral award project around the construction, invention and dissemination of the idea of ‘celebrity’ in nineteenth century Britain. She is also author of numberous articles, chapter contributions and exhibition catalogue essays including most recently ‘Horrors, hallucinations, pity and prostheses: German artists and the First World War’ for The Sensory War exhibition catalogue, opening at Manchester Art Galleries in October 2014. She regularly gives public lectures at a host of major public institutions including the National Galleries of Scotland (Man Ray’s Women), Death and Maiden (National Gallery, London), The Naked and the Nude: Women in Art (Herbert Museum and Art Gallery), Between us lies our child, art (Paula Modersohn-Becker Museum, Bremen) Crossing the Black Atlantic (RWA, Bristol), amongst others.
In 2010 Dr Price completed a two year Leverhulme Research Fellowship in which she researched women artists and photographers in Weimar Germany. Her most recent monograph After Dada: Martha Hegemann and the Cologne Avant-garde (MUP, 2013) results from that research. New research for a further book entitled Weimar Women: Photography and Modernity continues those interests, as does her membership of the academic network Weimar Photography hosted by the University of Durham and a further exhibition project on Berlin in the 1920s. She is currently preparing a new monograph on the German Expressionist artist Kathe Kollwitz for Yale University Press.
Dr. Price’s research interests also extend to questions of race and gender in 20th century Britain. She has published articles examining the work of Frank Bowling, Lubaina Himid, Oreet Ashery and moti roti and in 2013, together with Marsha Meskimmon, co-edited Women, The Arts and Globalisation: Eccentric Experience (MUP, 2013).
Professor Jane Rhodes is trained as a mass media historian with specialization in African American history and culture. She focuses on the study of race, gender and mass media; the history of the black press; media and social movements; and African American women’s history. She is particularly interested in how aggrieved communities have used print culture, film, electronic media, music, and other expressive cultures as modes of resistance and empowerment. Her work also explores the gender politics of African American communities and the experiences of transnational black subjects.
Rhodes’ first book Mary Ann Shadd Cary: The Black Press and Protest in the Nineteenth Century (Indiana University Press, 1998), was named the best book in mass communication history by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Her second book, Framing the Black Panthers: The Spectacular Rise of a Black Power Icon (The New Press) was published in Fall 2007. Rhodes was featured in the award-winning documentary The Black Press: Soldiers Without Swords (California Newsreel, 1999). Most recently she was the Joy Foundation Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and a visiting fellow at the Center for the Study of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at the University of Cambridge (U.K.)., both in 2012-13.
A current research project continues Rhodes’ long-standing interest in how black activists use media to carve out spaces for political, intellectual and cultural exchange titled Rebel Media: Adventures in the History of the Black Public Sphere . Rhodes is also researching a biography of a black American expatriate and psychoanalyst tentatively titled Transatlantic Blackness in the Era of Jim Crow: The Life of Marie Battle Singer
Dr. Elizabeth Robles is a Part-Time Teacher in the History of Art department at the University of Bristol and Associate Lecturer of History of Art and Design at Bath Spa University. Her research is rooted in an interest in re-centring the visual and the art historical within discourses around the intersections of race, gender and representation. She recently completed her doctoral studies at the University of Bristol with a thesis titled ‘Disruptive Aesthetics: ‘Black British’ Art Since the 1980s, which aimed to build an art historical reassessment of the ‘Black Arts Movement’ and its reverberations through the 1990s and beyond. She is currently revising her thesis for publication as a monograph. Also forthcoming is an article taken from her recent paper, ‘Maxine Walker: Imaging the Homeplace’, given at the ‘House, Work, Artwork: Feminism and Art History’s New Domisticities’ conference at the University of Birmingham (2015), which will be published in a special edition of the Oxford Art Journal, dedicated to the outcomes of that conference.
Dr. Rachel Rubin is Professor of American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Director of the Center for the Study of Humanities, Culture, and Society. She has published widely in a variety of fields, with a particular interest in the relationship of left politics and cultural production, working-class cultural productions, and American ethnic literatures. Among the books she has written or edited are Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture and Immigration and American Popular Culture and Southern Radicalism since Reconstruction and American Popular Music: New Approaches to the Twentieth Century.
Currently Rubin is finishing one book project, a collection of “critical interviews” with a variety of artists/activists, ranging from artist Betye Saar to rapper Boots Riley of the Coup to novelist Maxine Hong Kingston, and launching a next, a study of the Patrice Lumumba Friendship Institute in Moscow—a Cold War-era experiment in Soviet outreach to undergraduate and graduate students from the developing world. Rubin is also a regular media commentator on popular culture and a cohost of the news and public affairs radio show Commonwealth Journal.
Dr. James Smethurst is a Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is the author of The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930-1946 (1999), The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s (2005), which won the Organization of American Historians’ James A. Rawley Prize and was a 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title, and The African American Roots of Modernism: From Reconstruction to the Harlem Renaissance. He is also the co-editor of Left of the Color Line: Race, Radicalism and Twentieth-Century Literature of the United States (2003), Radicalism in the South Since Reconstruction (2006), and SOS—Calling All Black People: A Black Arts Movement Reader (2014). He is working on a history of the Black Arts Movement in the US South.
Dr. Ashwani Sharma is Principal Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies at the University of East London (UEL), UK. He teaches and researches on race, visual culture, music, postcolonial and cultural theory, especially in terms of memory, history, place, temporality and racial capitalism in diasporic, black and transnational contexts. He is currently completing a book on ‘Race and Visual Culture in Global Times’ (Bloomsbury). He co-edited Disorienting Rhythms: The Politics of the New Asian Dance Music (Zed Books). He co-founded and co-edits the international peer-review journal darkmatter (http://www.darkmatter101.org/), where he has edited a number of special issues including on ‘Post-Racial Imaginaries’, and the TV series The Wire. He was the co-director of the Centre for Cultural Studies Research (CCSR) at UEL and co-edits Southern Discomfort (http://southerndiscomfortzine.wordpress.com/), where he writes poetry.
Dr. Dhanveer Singh Brar is a scholar of Black Studies, as it intersects with Cultural Studies and Critical Theory. The research he undertakes covers theorizations of black diasporic culture from the mid-twentieth century to the present, the history of the black radical tradition, and the politics of black critical thought. He has published in journals such as Popular Music and Darkmatter and also been an invited speaker at the Institute for the International Visual Arts, London. At present he is working on a book manuscript analysing electronic dance music, urban geography and sonic culture in the black diaspora of the Global North
Dr Shawn Sobers is a filmmaker, photographer and researcher and Associate Professor of Lens Media at University of the West of England, Bristol. His research is primarily concerned with the use of media and arts in participatory education, community contexts, advocacy, heritage, marginalised voices and untold stories. Much of his positioned within the discourses of participatory methodologies, community media, autoethnography and visual anthropology.
His research projects has spanned a wide range of topics, from the use of youth media in informal education, through to using media as an ethnographic research tool exploring subjects such as the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade, through to people with disabilities and walking. The common aspect across these diverse projects is participatory approaches to facilitating people to have their voice and opinions heard.
Shawn has chapters and articles published in peer reviewed journals and books, and has spoken at a wide range of conferences internationally, and his work has been exhibited and screened both nationally and internationally. He co-founded Firstborn Creatives production company in 1999, and has directed programmes for BBC 1, ITV West and Channel 4.
Dr. Leon Wainwright is Reader in Art History at The Open University, UK. He has a background of research on modern and contemporary art and artists of the African, Asian and Caribbean diasporas, and has led several major international research projects exploring an expanded global geography of art, most recently ‘Sustainable Art Communities: Creativity and Policy in the Transnational Caribbean’, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC UK) and the Netherlands Scientific Organisation (NWO). He is the author of the book Timed Out: Art and the Transnational Caribbean (Manchester University Press, 2011) and co-editor of the anthologies Triennial City: Localising Asian Art (Cornerhouse 2014) and Objects and Imagination: Perspectives on Materialization and Meaning (Berghahn 2015). His bookPhenomenal Difference: A Philosophy of Black British Art is forthcoming in 2016. A former long-standing member of the editorial board of the journal Third Text, from 2014-2015 he occupied the inaugural position of Kindler Chair in Global Contemporary Art at Colgate University, New York, and has held visiting roles at UC Berkeley, Yale, and the University of Oxford. In 2012 he won a Philip Leverhulme Prize in the History of Art.
Helen Wilson-Roe is a black/dual heritage, working class, self-taught artist from Bristol. Her principal medium is figurative painting (in oils).
Helen’s work addresses social and cultural issues. She demonstrates an integrity and social-political awareness.
She started painting fairly late in her life (her thirties) after seeing an image on the television in 1994, at the time she was a single mum living in Easton, the inner city of Bristol. An image of the Rwandan genocide was broadcast on the television, which compelled Helen to learn more about the circumstances – initially to educate her children, but later to raise awareness of the tragedy that went untold. This led Helen to recognise that her communication tool was her paintbrush.
In 2002, with very little funding, Helen travelled alone to Rwanda. She met survivors and visited massacre sites. The people she met and the sights she saw were the inspiration behind thirteen large-scale oil paintings that she painted on her return. They tell a powerful story of personal dignity, courage and survival. Many of the stories that she heard were too traumatic to describe or even paint, but through her use of colour – representing the beauty of Rwanda and its people – Helen communicates the stories in a way that is accessible and moving.
Helen’s aim in the exhibition was to explore reconciliation and education in areas of conflict and division. Using the experience of the Rwandan nation seeking to heal itself and reconcile internal divisions after genocide, Making Sense: A Rwandan Story is a stimulus for debate and learning – enabling exhibition visitors, both young and old, to explore various perspectives on conflict resolution and peace building.
The Making Sense exhibition was Helen’s first solo exhibition and also the first exhibition in the UK of oil paintings based on the Rwandan genocide. She gifted the Making Sense paintings to the Embassy of Rwanda / London 2006. The Embassy have arranged for the paintings to be taken to Rwanda to stay permanently.
Helen’s work in progress Our True Legacy includes paintings such as Blink Once for Yes and Twice for No are powerful provocative studies of seemingly ordinary people who have had an extraordinary impact on their community. The individuals Helen chose to paint have shown tremendous strength, dignity and courage. They have quietly drawn attention to important causes, or helped others within their community to achieve their true potential against all odds.
Helen’s work therefore highlights the people within our communities who are raising awareness of the deep issues such as racism, ethnic profiling and the criminalising of innocent black men and children.
Helen’s inspiration for the people that she paints is through her belief that community figures are not accurately represented. Some established institutions like the media, local and national government, appear to caricature & character assassinate cultural leaders. She feels that introducing community representatives who seem more intent on posturing and playing the political game as well as furthering their own ambitions appears to have a damaging effect upon the community, and especially the young people, rather than meeting any of their needs from a cultural point of view.
Helen’s aim is for Black people, and importantly Black children to be able to walk into galleries anywhere in the world and see that there are different stories about African cultures and the people who arrived in Europe, North & South America via the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Her hope is for them to be able to identify with the paintings in a positive way, and for them to walk away with a sense of cultural pride.