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Essential Black Art

Rasheed Araeen, Mona Hatoum, Keith Piper, Sonia Boyce, Zarina Bhimjee, Gavin Jantjes, Eddie Chambers, Lubaina Himid, Sutapa Biswas, Alan de Souza
5 February – 5 March 1988


Chisenhale Gallery is hosting an exhibition curated by Rasheed Araeen and Black Umbrella, entitled Essential Black Art.

“The term ‘Black Art’ is now commonly used by both the black community as well as by people in general. But this common usage is a misuse of the term as far as the work that should be called Black Art is concerned. This term is actually a convenient term used to refer to the work of black artists, with an implication that their work should necessarily be different from the mainstream. But this does not explain the actual difference in terms of social and historical developments in this society since the war. The general tendency is to somehow treat Black Art as a category inherent to black people, without taking into account its relationship with black struggle. In other words, everything that goes within black community or whatever is produced by black artists is seen as Black Art.

Black Art is, in fact, a specific contemporary art practice that has emerged directly from the struggle of Asian, African and the Caribbean people (i.e black people) against racism and the work itself specifically deals with and expresses a ‘human condition’: the condition of black people resulting from their existence in a racist white society or/and in, global terms, from Western cultural imperialism. The condition of diaspora, the feeling of being uprooted and not belonging to the white/Western society one finds oneself living in, being somehow placed by this outside the contemporary culture, has lead to a new black consciousness, a black critical position that is fundamental to Black Art. The purpose of this exhibition is to put Black Art in its proper socio-historical context which is contemporary and has little to do with Asian/African traditions.”

Text by Rasheed Araeen, 1988


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