Tag Archives: Black Atlantic

Frederick Douglass in Britain: Online Teaching Resource

Frederick Douglass, c1847-52

Many thanks to postgraduate researcher Hannah-Rose Murray (MA Public History at Royal Holloway) for passing on this information about her research focused on Frederick Douglass’ time in Britain and the associated teaching resource that she has produced:

How many people in Britain have heard of Frederick Douglass? He is probably one of the most famous African Americans in the United States, but his sojourn in Britain has been largely forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born a slave in Maryland, he escaped and travelled to Britain between 1845-7, urging the British people to campaign against American slavery. Douglass created a sensation, and his experiences in this country deserve to be recognised. He was able to sharpen his powerful skills as an orator, and he established long-term friendships with British abolitionists, who supported him throughout his career as a social activist.

I first became aware of Douglass at University (2008). I read a speech by him, titled “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” This was a merciless attack on America’s concept of ‘liberty’, and I’ve been hooked ever since! For a Masters project, I created several teaching resources focusing on Douglass’s trip to Britain, and created a website – https://sites.google.com/site/frederickdouglassinbritain/

While I was researching Douglass, it became clear there was something missing – an analysis of the impact Douglass had on Britain. We can test this by reading contemporary newspapers, as they offer opinions on American slavery in general and on Douglass himself. Through this, we can understand how and why Douglass was so successful in Britain, particularly on a grassroots level. There are some great debates within the newspapers about slavery, and how far Britain should interfere, so it’s a great study of relations between the UK and the United States too.

This period of history is fascinating, and some of the controversies Douglass became involved in show that the issue of slavery was not confined to the American shore. For all of these reasons, I’m keen to spread the word about Frederick Douglass and his important trip here, to a British and an American audience!

A blue plaque to Frederick Douglass is currently being organised, with the tribute ceremony on 20February at Whitehead’s Grove, South Kensington. Currently, more donations are needed, so if you would like to make a contribution or find out more about the plaque, follow this link – http://www.nubianjak.com/default.aspx

Migrations: Journeys through British Art

There is just over a month left to see this great exhibition currently on at Tate Britain. Migrations: Journeys through British Art:

“explores British art through the theme of migration from 1500 to the present day, reflecting the remit of Tate Britain Collection displays. From the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Flemish and Dutch landscape and still-life painters who came to Britain in search of new patrons, through moments of political and religious unrest, to Britain’s current position within the global landscape, the exhibition reveals how British art has been fundamentally shaped by successive waves of migration. Cutting a swathe through 500 years of history, and tracing not only the movement of artists but also the circulation of visual languages and ideas, this exhibition includes works by artists from LelyKneller,Kauffman to SargentEpsteinMondrianBombergBowling and the Black Audio Film Collective as well as recent work by contemporary artists”

There are also a number of events related to this exhibition upcoming. The first is one tonight:

25 June 2012 from 6.30 – 8.30pm: Personal Journeys: Bonnie Greer on Migrations: “Join playwright and critic Bonnie Greer on a personal journey through the exhibition, as she talks about what migration means to her.”

while in two weeks time:

11 July 2012 from 6.30 -8.30pm Artist Talk: David Medalla: “Born in the Philippines and based in Britain since the Sixties artist David Medalla describes himself as a citizen of the world. His work does not come from one single cultural perspective but draws from his constant travelling, inspired by the places and the people he meets. In this talk Medalla speaks about his practice spanning painting, sculpture, installation and performance, and shares his thoughts on the theme of Migration in art.”

Euromight.com – Online Resource

We are pleased to present a new online resource: Euromight.com which: “…celebrates Europe’s citizens/residents who share African
heritage, telling their stories, discussing their concerns and marking
the events that are important to their everyday lives.
We report original stories from a wide network of contributors across
the EU and curate content which focuses on the Afro-European
experience. We are mindful of our role as educators in this process
since much of the content we produce is not readily available in
Europe and beyond.”

As such Euromight.com has recently been selected by the British Library as a site of importance which will take part in their UK Web Archives project. This project will preserve selected sites for permanent use in the future and seeks to conserve websites that publish research,  that reflect the diversity of lives, interests and activities  throughout the UK, and demonstrate web innovation.

Some recent exclusive stories on Euromight.com have included:

CONFRONTING INEQUALITY IN GREECE –

http://www.euromight.com/greeceinequality.php

BLACKS IN NORTHERN IRELAND FIND THEIR VOICE –
http://www.euromight.com/afroirish.php

FRENCH ACTIVIST TACKLES RACISM – http://www.euromight.com/rokhayadiallo.php

Thanks to Olive Vassell – founder and managing editor of Euromight.com – for passing on the information about this great resource.

Updated Symposium Programme: Representations of Slavery

Please note that the program me for the Representations of Slavery in Neoliberal Times Symposium to be held at the University of Newcastle on Friday 25th May has been updated and will now take place as below:

Selected images from : Positive Negative Guardian Paperworks via: http://www.lubainahimid.info/

Programme of events

1.oopm – Refreshments available

1.10 – 1.15 – Welcome by Conference Co-Convener

Carolyn Pedwell, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

1:15 – 2:15 – Lubaina Himid, Centre for Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire

Negative Positives: The Guardian, The Slave, The Wit and The Money

Chair: Daniel McNeil, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

2:15 – 3:15 – Julia O’Connell Davidson

School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Nottingham

Debt, Freedom and Slavery in Neoliberal Times

Chair: Anne Graefer, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

3:15 – 3.45 – Coffee break

3.45 – 4.45Carolyn Pedwell,

Alternative Empathies: Representing Slavery’s Affective Afterlives

Chair: John Richardson, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University

4.45 – 5.45 – Roundtable

Dr. Kate Manzo (Geography, Newcastle University)

Dr. Diana Paton (History, Newcastle University)

Dr. Rachel Wells (Fine Art, Newcastle University)

Chair: Daniel McNeil

6.00pm – Wine Reception

Northern Stage

—————————–

 
Abstracts

Negative Positives: The Guardian, The Slave, The Wit and The Money

Lubaina Himid, Centre for Contemporary Art, University of Central Lancashire

This essentially visual presentation will attempt to show how The Guardian newspaper in 2007, and then just as strongly during subsequent years, constantly suggests that European sports teams and clubs disproportionally overspend when buying, selling and keeping black players.  While this is not an unusual stance by journalists in the British sporting press, The Guardian by frequently and jokily representing footballers and athletes via mocking photographs, degrading texts and or damaging juxtapositions of both, subtly ‘reminds’ its readers, many of whom are public health and social workers, teachers and academics as well as workers in the creative industries, of historically familiar racial stereotypes. The newspaper designers, by taking this approach, contribute to a situation in which the athletes remain within a ‘state of unbelonging’.

Much of Lubaina Himid’s recent creative visual practice has been taken up with building this archive of images and texts. The creation of a series of paper works, Negative Positives, in which ‘over-painting to emphasise’ has gone some way towards reclaiming the dignity of the people represented has however, to some degree, minimalised the findings and rendered them outside the debates they were intended to develop. Through the sharing of a range of these collected images both overpainted and in their original state, many from the year of commemoration 2007, Himid will invite discussion around how this subtle and oftentimes witty degradation of wealthy black elites undermines the campaigns opposed to contemporary slavery while at the same time visually fixing the black person as ‘other’ to be bought and sold.

 

Debt, Freedom and Slavery in Neoliberal Times

Julia O’Connell Davidson, University of Nottingham

In dominant discourse on ‘trafficking’, mobility, debt and dependence are configured in a very particular way and the kind of debt involved is clearly marked as disturbing, dangerous, illegal, morally wrong. The trafficker’s objective is to make repayment impossible and so to establish personal, inescapable, and highly asymmetrical relations of power and dependency. Relations between trafficker and victim are represented as the very antithesis of freedom – trafficking is frequently referred to as ‘modern slavery’. And yet debt that generates relations of dependency is also often a feature of forms of mobility that are legally sanctioned; debt that compels people to take on work that they would otherwise refuse is hardly uncommon in Western liberal democracies; and the techniques used to recover legally sanctioned loans from citizen-debtors can be highly coercive. But legally sanctioned debt, backed by the coercive powers of the state, is not framed as ‘modern slavery’. Indeed, in neoliberal times, access to credit, i.e., the ability to indebt oneself by entering into socially sanctioned creditor-debtor relations, is a marker of social inclusion, something that both reflects and affirms political belonging and subjectivity. Starting from an interest in debt as a social relation, and in questions about why some debt relations are sanctioned while others are denounced, this paper is concerned with the ways in which liberal discourse on freedom, rights and citizenship constructs particular types of debt and dependency as ‘modern slavery’ while endorsing other arrangements that, from the vantage point of the individual affected, may appear equally if not more pernicious.

Alternative Empathies: Representing Slavery’s Affective Afterlives

Carolyn Pedwell, Newcastle University

Against the dominant universalist injunction to ‘be empathetic’, this paper explores the possibilities  of alternative histories, practices and affects of empathy in the context of postcoloniality and neoliberalism.  Offering a critical reading of Antiguan American author Jamaica Kincaid’s postcolonial  text  A Small Place (1988), it examines how empathy expressed at the margins of our social and geo-political imaginaries might disrupt or refigure some of the dominant ways that affect is thought and mobilised in liberal and neoliberal discourses.  As a powerful commentary on the political, economic and affective links between colonialism and slavery and contemporary practices of tourism in the Caribbean that has provoked intense emotional responses among its readers, A Small Place offers a pertinent site through which to explore how history, power and violence shape the meanings and effects of empathy.  It illustrates how the affective afterlives of colonialism, slavery and racism shape contemporary subjectivities in ways that are not easy to penetrate, nor possible to undo, through the power of empathetic will or imagination alone.  In doing so, Kincaid’s text also considers the role that alternative empathies can play in interrogating the idea of time as linear, progressive and universal.  The continuing dialogue with loss and its aftermath that alternative empathies can engender, I argue, allows for engaging with ‘the performative force of the past’ (Munoz, 2009) in ways that invite us to break from fixed patterns and positionings and enter into a ‘more   demanding’, and potentially more ethical, relationship to the world and our being in it (Kincaid, 1988: 57).  I thus explore how alternative empathies might open out to affective politics which do not view emotions instrumentally as sources of – or solutions to – complex social and political problems, but rather examine diverse and shifting feeling states for what they tell us about the affective workings of power in a transnational world.

A Salon des Refusés for the 21st century

A Cape for Neg Mawon created by the Queer Arizona Crocheters for the 2nd Ghetto Biennale

What happens when first world art rubs up against third world art? Does it bleed? The second edition of the Ghetto Biennale tests out this hypothesis. An event initiated – by the sculptors of the Grand Rue and London-based photographer and curator Leah Gordon  – in 2009 was again held in a  downtown neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince in November and December 2011. The second edition of this unique and dynamic answer to the blockbuster biennial format is once again a collaborative effort curated by Leah Gordon along with artist and founder Andre Eugene, artist Celeur Jean Herard, and assistant curators Marg Duston and David Frohnapfel.

Well-established biennials all over the world promise utopian possibilities of surpassing the inequalities of international economic and political relations. Yet these huge events seem to remain structurally centered around presenting art as a luxury commodity and continue to be as far away as ever from providing a platform for social change globally. The Ghetto Biennale counters this inherent flaw in events organized by the elite of the arts sector worldwide – relocating the biennial franchise to the Grand Rue neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, embedding it in the life of the local community where the context of this biennial event can reframe the functions and possibilities of art practice.

More information about this exciting new landmark event on the art world’s global biennial map can be found online at the 2nd Ghetto Biennale’s Official Site.

Reviews and information about participants involved in the 2011 edition can be found by clicking on the links below:

http://www.mutualart.com/OpenArticle/Making-Art-in-the-3rd-World–Haiti-s-Ghe/22E9F035C126AC4F/Events

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carine-fabius/creating-and-bleeding-in-_b_1174804.html 

http://kwocheayiti.wordpress.com/2011/12/27/yarn-bombing-neg-mawon/

http://goo.gl/ccQKJ

AUBREY WILLIAMS: ATLANTIC FIRE

Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire by Leon Wainwright is now available to read in full at the Black Atlantic Resource:

The paintings of Aubrey Williams are islands of fire that have scorched their way across a range of different stories of art. One story is about the evolution of British painting in the twentieth century. Another is a story about the way in which Caribbean people have struggled and pressed for their freedom and sparked with modern creativity. Yet another story has passages on Britain and Guyana, Jamaica, South America, and the United States, pulling in all those settings around the Atlantic where Aubrey Williams lived and worked, and where he exhibited his art. It is a story about how Williams had an ability to be in several places at once in the history of art. Williams’ legacy is framed within a brilliant composite of narratives; and there his art works have remained, smouldering continually, their heat slowly building. His life story and his art cannot be located in a simple geography, either physical or cultural. Williams painted with fire, and the path that he cut is a hard one to follow…

To view the full article at the Black Atlantic Resource now click here

To view Aubrey Williams’ artist page at the October Gallery, with images exhibited at the Atlantic Fire exhibition click here

Leon Wainwright, ‘Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire’, in Reyahn King ed., 2010 Aubrey Williams: Atlantic Fire National Museums Liverpool and October Gallery, London, pp. 46-55. ISBN: 978-1-899542-30-7. Exhibition catalogue essay. Republished here with permission of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and The October Gallery, London.

New Provincialisms: Curating Art of the African Diaspora

La Fantasie Art Project (by caribbeanfreephoto via flickr)

New Provincialisms: Curating Art of the African Diaspora by Leon Wainwright is now available to read in full at the Black Atlantic Resource:

Over the past decade there have been various curatorial attempts to assemble and understand the art of the African diaspora and to offer a more global sense of the histories from which such works emerge. The diaspora concept once promised fresh possibilities for imagining community beyond the nation; however, its internationalist emphasis has given way to a provincializing attitude grounded in United States – centered experiences.

When art exhibitions are designed to mobilize the African diaspora and to reverse its traditional exclusion from art history and public memory, it is less clear whether such designs also prove capable of reversing the direction of this new provincialism. And yet, while the otherwise international relevance of the diaspora analytic has become susceptible to political and social priorities with a locus in the United States, much can be gained from interrogating the ways in which this locus generates new “margins” and “centers” in the world of art and blackness.

To view the full article at the Black Atlantic Resource now click here.

[First published in Radical History Review, Issue 103 (Winter 2009) pp. 203-213: http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1215/01636545-2008-041]