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Saturday, 8 August 2015

No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990

No Colour Bar: Black British Art in Action 1960-1990 at the Guildhall Art Gallery takes an innovative look at Black British cultural identities, heritage and creative voices - and the struggle Black British artists faced to have their voices heard - from the 1960s to the 1990s.

The focus is on the life works of Eric and Jessica Huntley and the Bogle L’Ouverture Press, a publishing house and pioneering bookshop and cultural hub that they founded in 1969. Bogle L'Ouverture's output and work promoted, and was shaped by, decolonisation and the fight against discrimination. Bogle L'Ouverture's bookshop has been physically recreated in the Gallery to provide a multi-sensory, interactive installation alongside works by notable artists of the period, including Eddie Chambers, Errol Lloyd, Denzil Forrester, Sonia Boyce, Keith Piper, and Sokari Douglas-Camp.

Through the exhibition I was interested to come across The Crucifixion by Ismith Khan. Told in two voices, one standard English, the other Creole, The Crucifixion is an ironic fable of a tragi-comic self-deception. In exploring the popular folk archetype of the self-crucified preacher, the novel takes the balladic form of the calypso to greater depths. It encompasses the folk history/archetype of the Preacher/Prophet who calls on his followers to crucify him, and one episode draws on the folk narratives of the 1937 Trinidad uprising, particularly the actual event when a deeply unpopular police sergeant was burnt to death by a crowd. It also develops in a more symbolic way the issues of the dialectic between freedom and order in Trinidadian society.

When Manko arrives in Port of Spain from his country village to begin his divine mission, he discovers that he has the gift to touch the raw nerve of other people's needs, hopes and guilts. But when he becomes enmeshed in the lives of his fellow yard-dwellers without understanding the different crosses they bear, he sets in train events which teach him too late that there are temptations and responsibilities in being a servant of the Lord for which he is ill equipped. Khan portrays the tensions between authority and freedom, law and love in Trinidadian society through Manko's fate and the stories of the other yard dwellers. 


Linton Kwesi Johnson - Sonny´s Lettah.

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