A publication created by Collective Creativity, which came out of a workshop and lecture at Nottingham Contemporary in 2016; discussing race and politics in art schools today.
Collective Creativity, longed to un-archive the history of British artists of colour and had started with looking at writings from namely Stuart Hall and Rasheed Araeen. In which we saw the shattering struggles that British artists of colour had been waging to break the ground to enable us to follow the path it created in its wake: making art and carving political Black space in art history. Clusters of artists that cropped up in the 70’s and 80’s all over the Midlands who were reaching out and working together. We began to further excavate this legacy; through finding resources, entering archival spaces, and embarking upon researching queer, feminist and post colonial histories. To do this we drew from The African-Caribbean, Asi-an & African Art in Britain archives at Chelsea College of Art; the Making Histories Visible archive at University of Lancashire – Professor Lubaina Himid’s own collection; and the specifically Black Queer materials archive Ruck-us! created by artist Ajamu and kept at the London Metropolitan archives. From feminist publications, letters, pa-pers, back catalogues, and by speaking to the artists of that time, a Black feminist history of artists who stirred a storm in the 80’s/90’s was revealed. Re-visiting the Thin Black Lines exhibition, showed how politically nuanced artworks could be showcased in history, with those that spoke from histories of difference, and where migrant and gendered subjectivities were given precedence, in a space like Tate Britain.This finding of representation was fundamental to understanding the legacy of the Black Arts movement, to un-derstand what had come before, and to build on the foundations that had already been laid out. For young people, students and emerging artists of colour, it’s crucial to feel this history is our own, and not be burdened with starting from the beginning as many pioneering artists have done before us.So, upon discovering artists like Maud Sulter, Claudette Johnson, Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Zarina Bhimji, Chila Kumari Burman, Ingrid Pollard, Poluoumi Desai we realised that these are still only the ones that made it into books (and if you look you will find them you will find them)...but there are many more. Knowing their work cements a sense of history, of knowing that there were artists in the 80’s at the height of race politics, making subversive critical work about identity; you have a legacy that is yours, that you can refer to. It’s more than representation, it’s seeing people who reflect your own story, in those big glossy art books, people, who have names like yours. It gives a sense of connection, rather than a sense of constant loss, and mourning; which is what living in a neo-colonial hetero-patriarchal world feels like. The quest to fill in the gaps has led Collective Creativity into self organising and re-distributing resources. Through excavating the histories and legacies of queer artists of colour in Britain, this research in turn has helped bolster our individual practices as artists and activists. Guided by the knowledge of the radical work the Black arts movement in Britain had laid down before us, for us, in the 70’s, 80's and early 90’s. Understanding and critiquing the Black arts movement and the hidden or nuanced queer threads within it, has allowed us to flourish in this knowledge of previous history as British artists and QTIPOC activists, to heal and grow. Our work in recreating these conversations of reflection enables us as queer trans artists of colour to look forward in our own (un)archiving, and in creating radical spaces for QTIPOC creativity in forms of research, work-shops, visual documentation and exhibitions.
In the pages that follow you will find our own reflections on surviving art school as well as current art students enrolled at Nottingham Trent University who participated in a collective workshop at Nottingham Contemporary in April, 2015. We would like to thank them for this time we spent together. You will also find a transcript of the conversation of an event on the Politics of the Art School that we held to co-incide with the workshop, in which we hosted members of the Black Arts Movement from the 1980s including Claudette Johnson, Said Adrus and Keith Piper in a discussion with people living and working in Nottingham.
written by Raisa Kabir, on behalf of Collective Creativity