This exhibition was initially curated for the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum in HE University of the Arts London movement and was exhibited at Central Saint Martins College. It has since also been exhibited in pop up form at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London as part of their “Black History” Interruptions! collaboration between their Learning Skills programme and the Centre for Race, Education, and Decoloniality at Leeds Beckett University.
The exhibit featured a range of artefacts accompanied with photography and a video installation on the themes of the post colonial British diaspora – and was driven by the question:
Does my Melanin determine my Britishness?
We cannot decolonise until we acknowledge and understand our colonial pasts and the whitewashing of British history. In recent years, contemporary British identity appears to have become synonymous with whiteness and the histories of Empire have become slowly omitted from national consciousness.
The nuanced and often difficult narratives of Empire that live as legacy in many facets of British society, are now replaced with binary narratives of white and black, immigration leading to white English poverty. Complexed identities and contexts reduced to a simplified and bigoted narratives of difference and colourism.
So if ones identity is reduced to the pigment of their skin then what of those post-colonial subjects whose ancestries are embedded in Britain? What of their rights and access to a British identity? Are their familial contexts that were so intrinsically linked to Empire expired, with Empire? Did those identities become lost with the loss of the commodification that came from their countries of origin once ruled by Britannia?
I ask these questions in sight of my own complexed post-colonial identity. As someone born in this country but too often addressed by the word “Paki” or asked where I’m really from.
Exhibition Podcast (hyperlinked)
This episode of Interrogating Spaces profiles the latest Decolonising the Arts Curriculum exhibition at Central St Martins library, curated by Rahul Patel (Lecturer on MA MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central St Martins and Educational Developer at UAL’s Teaching and Learning exchange). It features conversations with the five featured artists (Maria Bendixen, Dr Jo Shah, Tobi Falade, Siyan Zhang and Joanna Mamede) about their displays within the exhibition. Through the ideas at play within each of their artworks, we gain insights into diverse positions on decolonisation. The feature is introduced by Rahul Patel.