MAKING HISTORIES VISIBLE
Introduction - Museum Collaborations
During the past nine years we have worked closely with a number of museums and galleries to highlight through the installation of new art work specific but neglected aspects of their collections. In doing so we have assisted in the development of their strategies for broadening participation.
We are interested in initiating ways of communicating and developing ideas with diverse audiences and artists around temporary exhibitions, collection displays and public events.
As an integral part of past collaborations we have offered exhibition tours, illustrated lectures, the sharing of contextual materials. We encourage opportunities for audiences to network with artists and curators.
We work on a continuous basis with museums building innovative projects around audience development, site co-ordination, archive intervention and social and political balance in purchasing.
Having worked with several museums (Tate the V&A, St Jorgens, The Bowes, The Hatton , The Harris and more recently Lancashire Museums Service, Manchester Museums Service and Liverpool Museums Service) on research projects directly concerned with artists from the black diaspora. We are constantly in demand to develop work with a number of nationally based internationally recognised organisations. This work is at its most effective as live and experiential, as exhibitions, small displays, web based interactions, family or childrens events, scholarly symposia and accessible dvd /text publications.
We always demand and often achieve open access to the workings of each organisation, including visitor information, archive and collection resources, display and exhibition space. We are able to access the long standing expertise of marketing and publicity teams, audience development and education teams as well as senior curators and project managers within the service.
We Face Forward a season of contemporary art and music from West Africa, celebrated across Manchester’s galleries, museums, music venues and public spaces from 2 June to 16 September as part of London 2012 Festival. It is the first major collaboration between Manchester City Galleries and Whitworth Art Gallery.
The accompanying 128 page publication includes an introductory essay by the curators Maria Balshaw, Bryony Bond, Mary Griffiths and Natasha Howes which sets the historic context of the relationship between Manchester and West Africa and discusses the main themes which run throughout the exhibition. Other essays by Christine Eyene, Lubaina Himid, Koyo Kouoh and Alan Rice explore the wider context for the exhibition including tracing the image of the thread, an engagement with British artists of African descent, a focus on independent contemporary art spaces in West Africa and an exploration of the history of African Atlantic residents in Cottonopolis. Furthermore there are texts on each of the 33 artists in the exhibition with full colour images of their work.
ISBN 978 0901673817
11 February – 13 May
Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester
Late winter and spring sees all the ground floor galleries at the Whitworth combining to tell a compelling story about the production, consumption and global trade in cotton. With exhibits ranging in date from the late Middle Ages to the present day, the exhibition takes in Lancashire and South Asia, the Americas and Africa and is the region's flagship exhibition outcome of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.
Cotton was the world's first global commodity. At the heart of the exhibition are displays of fashion and textiles that examine India’s extensive global trade networks in cotton centuries before production shifted to Northern Europe, and the impact that cotton had on Western fashion, providing the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. The displays also take a provocative look at cotton's 'dirty secrets' - at its human and environmental impact - and at the pivotal political and economic role it has played in establishing national independence from colonial rule.
The fashion and textile displays engage in dialogue with the work of seven contemporary artists working in a range of disciplines whose work addresses one or more of the exhibition themes. They include Yinka Shonibare MBE, Lubaina Himid, Chicago-based Anne Wilson, Malian artists Abdoulaye Konaté and Aboubakar Fofana, and Grace Ndiritu, while Liz Rideal's work illuminates the exterior of the building throughout the hours of darkness.
The exhibition also showcases the outcomes of a three-year programme of work with young people, taking the form of an interactive space for younger visitors.
Until 18 March 2012
Thin Black Line(s) Prof Lubaina Himid MBE and Paul Goodwin Hanging the show - work in progress images.
Artists showing work in Thin Black Line(s) Tate Britain 2011/2012
Sutapa Biswas, Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Ingrid Pollard, Veronica Ryan, Maud Sulter
12 January30 April 2011
Lubaina Himid explores provocative issues around black identity, and for this show, she has researched and selected pieces from the
Gallerys West African textile collection. She has reinterpreted these in large cut-out figures, painted to express the conflicts and the
convergencies in contemporary and historic male identity.
Lubaina Himids exhibition is part of London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.
Tailor Singer Striker Dandya museum intervention at Platt Hall (Costume Museum ) a collaborative project in partnership with Manchester Museums Service.
Jelly Mould Pavilion 27 Mar - 6 June 2010
The Liverpool Jelly MouldPavilion Project, is a city wide multi site collaboration with Liverpool Museums Service.
The Jelly Mould Pavilions for Liverpool are launched on the 27th March 2010 as part of a 30 piece display at Sudley House and in smaller
groups at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Williiamson Art Gallery, Jacksons Art Shop and Blackburne House Cafe.
Visit them all and make your choice.
The Pavilions project is designed to find solutions to the challenge of how to commemorate the contribution made by the people of the
African diaspora to the history, culture and rich fabric of the city of Liverpool.
How can genuine laughter and the potential for lasting togetherness be celebrated?
Can misunderstandings and ignorance be resolved?
How can what seems to be the permanent impact of exploitation be addressed?
The answers could be found through honest conversation, an exchange of memories and a sharing of creative achievements.
Choose the Pavilion you would like to place in the best location, with the most beautiful vista, in which you might spend time with a valued
companion to try to solve the challenge.
What are monuments for?
The Jelly Moulds displayed are models for Pavilions in which the people of Liverpool might at last get the chance to quietly contemplate
some possibilities for change, by talking about the potential for a joining together or even by singing about our international histories and
how they are connected.
The decorated ceramic models are covered in brightly coloured patterns, familiar texts and everyday portraits. You will recognise symbols
of the city itself and its history of links to the African continent.
Liverpool already has hundreds of monuments and memorial sculptures, many commemorative gardens, squares and contemporary
The city has heritage societies, local scholars, brilliant students and recognised experts living and working on Merseyside, all of whom
are able to inform us about the historical events, international personalities, fallen heroes and victims of conflict; some fondly remembered
others completely forgotten . Why add to this?
The project by Lubaina Himid asks how we can anticipate inevitable change in towns and cities and how we see the practicalities of these
changes manifesting. The displays identify and propose ideas around communication and celebration to create a visual representation of
future harmony .
For more information and to view the Jelly Pavilions visit www.jellypavilion.info
Uncomfortable Truths Victoria & Albert Museum London 2007
2007 saw the bi-centenary of the parliamentary abolition of the British slave trade. To commemorate this landmark year, not just in British
history but in human history, the V&A held a number of activities throughout 2007. The exhibition, Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of
Slave Trading on Contemporary Art was held at the V&A from February to June before touring to Salford Museum and Art Gallery and the
Ferens Gallery in Hull. Traces of the Trade Discovery Trails which showed how art and design were linked into the transatlantic slave trade,
highlightedobjects on display inthe V&A'spermanent collection during the course of the exhibition. Supporting the exhibition were a number
of activities and events throughout 2007 including films, music, poetry, talks and tours
Read Interview with Lubaina Himid
Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service Lancashire Museums Service 2007
Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service was a museum intervention for the Judges Lodgings Lancaster and part of a two year
collaboration with Lancashire Museums Service. The project was managed by Susan Ashworth (Lancashire Museums) and Susan Walsh
(UCLAN). During the summer of 2007 as part of a larger project ABOLISHED initiated by STAMP and the Museums Service, Lubaina Himid
staged a display of painted ceramic "cartoons for the dining room and kitchen of the museum, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the
Act of Parliament abolishing the slave trade in Britain.
Professor Himid conducted several guided tours and gave a number of illustrated lectures to local audiences interested in the history of the
visual representation of Black people in European art. Visiting academics from the USA, the Caribbean and continental Europe as well as
groups of young people from across Lancashire, who wished to learn more about the museum and its collection, were encouraged to
discuss issues around the slave trade in Lancaster and its impact on the wealth and architecture of the city.
Swallow Hard : The Lancaster Dinner Service is an intervention, a mapping and an excavation. It is a fragile monument to an invisible
engine working for nothing in an amazingly greedy machine. It remembers slave servants, sugary food, mahogany furniture, greedy families,
tobacco and cotton fabrics but then mixes them with British wild flowers, elegant architecture and African patterns.
I bought 100 patterned plates, jugs and tureens mostly old and used, sometimes chipped and cracked, sometimes ornate but rarely plain,
from the shops and markets of Lancaster, Preston and Whitehaven. The buying and the painting took place in the same time frame so the
Dinner Service grew organically. For instance I might buy six items, paint them, then buy three items, leave them until I had bought four
more items, then paint them until all were complete before buying more. The prices paid vary hugely; some were almost given away
and some are very valuable, all are overpainted with acrylic paint. There are views of the city, plants that always grew here, there are maps,
slave ship designs and texts from sales of these ships which took place in the pubs and hotels. I have painted pages from account books,
elegant houses, patterns from Mali from Nigeria , from Ghana and all along the West African coast, these patterns like the paintings of
buildings and vistas, boats and documents all cut across or weave in and out of the original patterns found on the old ceramics.
On every tureen the faces of the unknown and unnamed black slave servants ask to be remembered. On every item its possible to see
large areas of the original design as the new painting emerges or unsuccessfully attempts to hide the identity of the old.
Overpainting has become central to my work at the moment. In the past I have painted over maps, museum postcards and pages from
magazines. Now I am often tempted to paint new paintings on top of my old work, much to the dismay of curators and friends, but the idea of
leaving parts of an old painting exposed and covering other parts really intrigues me. Several paintings in the exhibition Swallow (2006) at
the Judges Lodgings were examples of this overpainting. It could be that the past needs to be partially obliterated or perhaps its just that
there is something very exciting about watching something familiar disappear for ever. This drastic action then gives me an opportunity to
challenge myself to making a better piece, the chance to tell a new story while still being able to hear the echoes of the old one.
Inside the Invisible St. Jorgens Museum Bergen Norway 2001
St Jorgens Museum Bergen Norway
The collaboration with St Jorgens Museum developed from discussions following a visit to the museum in 2000. Audiences to the 18th
century buildings tended to be visitors interested in the history of medicine in general and leprosy in particular. The curator was keen to
develop relationships with the local community surrounding the museum, he also wished to expand the possibility of local school visits,
history workshops and annual events around contemporary art. The main emphasis for the intervention was not the medical innovation
that took place there or the structure of the fine wooden buildings dating from 1706. Lubaina Himid used the two short residency periods
to develop ways of connecting the people of the contemporary city of Bergen in Norway to the inhabitants of the former hospital;
the leprosy patients themselves.
Inside the Invisible
The last leprosy patients in Norway died in 1946. They were Europeans. Leprosy is a disease of poverty, neglect and terrible living
conditions: this was the reality for many Norwegians until the end of the nineteenth century. Inside the Invisible was an exhibition made
for the St Jorgens Leprosy Museum in Bergen, Norway in 2001, for which I painted 100 small works on raw linen, each with an English and
Imagine your warmest jacket has stitched inside it, close to your heart, a patterned patch, five inches by five inches. It reminds you of life
before you were struck with a disease that took away pieces of your flesh, your foot, your hand, your nose, your ear. You look at your piece
of fabric now and again just to remember.
Most of the leprosy patients in Bergen were fisherman farmers who worked in conditions of 20 degrees below zero on the high seas in
very, very wet weather, mostly in the dark. They lived for much of the time on the beach and slept under their boats in vile and inhumane
Some patients or inmates were members of the clergy, musicians, painters, builders, clockmakers, as well as farmers or boat-builders.
There were women who, in their former lives, cooked, mended, washed, nursed, gave birth and prayed, as well as all the usual childrearing
and food growing and attempting to keep warm and dry that was the norm. They too were infected with leprosy.
I wanted to make a series of works that might give these people a voice. They were individuals, real, idiosyncratic, sexual, thinking people.
They had memories, hopes, families. In the same way that slaves were more than slaves, lepers are more than just people with bits of
their bodies missing through disease.
The museum, an eighteenth-century wooden church and wooden buildings was reconstructed in 1706 after a fire, at first to separate and
segregate the diseased from the clean, then as a place to experiment to find a cure and then to house people who were cured but
unacceptable to society. There is a lodge, a barn, two wards on two levels, two large kitchens with open ovens, an herb garden and a
Those who visit today are very interested in Hansen, the doctor who, with a colleague, identified the leprosy bacteria. They look at his
room, his instruments and his belongings.
Each painting has a different pattern in many colours. A yellow background might have orange swirls or blue spots or a green check.
A blue background could have purple triangles and orange lines, a green background could have yellow ticks or white circles or brown
lines. Each one was always five inches square painted in the centre of a canvas eight inches square. You look at the pattern, see it, read
the text, This is my boat, my brother helped me build it, and either see the boat or do not. Someone who did not see the object, however
hard she looked, decided that the owner of the pattern/object did not want her to look into this private memory, it therefore remained hidden.
Each text was handwritten on a tiny card luggage label in Norwegian on one side and in English on the other. This was then attached with
string to the back of the paintings and hung down. You could read whichever side you wanted to. Each work existed as a memory, a secret,
a history, a fact. Now it has gone.
At the end of the nineteenth century, those who contracted leprosy could be cured, as they can be cured today, but patients usually lost a
physical part of themselves. The leper was still thought of as dirty, disabled or not whole, thus invisible.
When you enter the main hall, it looks the same as ever, dark, polished and quiet, with no sign of the sick, sore and rotting people sleeping
three to a room. The work was placed in the small rooms in the kitchens and on the stairwell:
These are my dancing shoes, I do not need them now.
I used this tureen on Sundays.
This is a special hook for mending nets.
These oars were made by my uncle (texts from Inside the Invisible)
I hoped that the Norwegian audience would try and see the objects, invisible in the paintings, many of which related to fishing and farming,
butsome that referred to family life, creative life and a more contemporary working life. It was meant to respond to the places as well as the
people, to help make visible to the Bergen visitors a piece of economic history somewhat buried in a new wealth. I also wanted to be part
of making the former hospital less frightening and yet more real. A place of beauty and inner calm beyond the outer terror of a slow,
stinking death, on the one hand, while remembering that it then became a place for the cured, but neglected and rejected, almost a prison.
In that new place, new family and friends could perhaps be made and a new future possible.
Lubaina Himid 2002
Distance No Object Bowes Museum- Barnard Castle 2004/5
Galleon/Shack - Lubaina Himid
The exhibition and intervention Distance No Object pays homage to the process of collecting objects from far afield, of bringing them
together in order for the flow of humanitys generations to make sense of and to place value in them. In the early discussions with the artists
who have contributed to Distance No Object - The Bowes Museum was seen in many respects as a 19th century symbol of Noahs Ark,
home to a myriad of objects spanning many centuries, presided over by John and Josephine Bowes as Mr and Mrs Noah. The artists
have explored the idea of Museum as a massive container of cultural artifacts that were at one point individual objects, but are now part
of a public collection. Adrian Jenkins Director.
Artists : Lubaina Himid, Susan Walsh, Mark Parkinson, Patricia Walsh.
Given that the context for this exhibition/intervention is the gathering, transporting, display, care taking, restoration and sustainability of
public collections ; to understand what happens in back rooms and boardrooms or who works hand in glove with whom to make it
possible, could bring to light more questions than it is comfortable to answer. The more you know about how a thing works, the more you
marvel that it works at all.
Lubaina Himid Guest curator.
The title for this project was 40 days and 40 nights and I imagined my paintings being part of a huge display of toy Noah's arks borrowed
from collections all over the world in a show which may have included arks owned by tzars, presidents, popes, movie stars and mad
academics. I envisaged a massive painted wooden ark leaning casually against the Bowes Museum which was to have been made
by a Newcastle theatre company's scenery department, designed by me for children to play on, plus as a surprise for the opening
evening, there was to be a slide show of weird and amazing boat buildings projected massively on the front of the museum, a sort of
son et lumiere, my favourite kind of outdoor entertainment. It is clear however that I have reluctantly and yet eventually adapted some
wild dreams. That I then decided to turn these ideas for spectacle into a deeper and longer lasting visual conversation between four
artists with far reaching and yet oddly parallel vision has been even more exciting.
Museums promise much and can deliver in the most eccentric and extraordinary manner. Artists are usually ready for this.
In this particular set of painted juxtapositions of buildings and boats there is a clash between the zones of safety and danger, of stillness and
movement and of the living and the dead, they join together in order to mix memory with strategy.
The paintings and drawings of arks map the mixing and mis-matching which takes place during the process of creative research. This then
enables a display of the maximum number of possiblities, which is often deeply embedded in the debates around how the visual
experiencing of objects can develop and opens out the probability of a vista of yet more visualising. In other words the more you look,
the more you see and the more able you are to see other ways of seeing, other ways of working and other ways of making things to see.
A Priceless Boon- Lubaina Himid
In the making of this new work for Distance No Object the creating of containers en masse within another huge container is one of the key
intentions, the idea of storage as an abstract concept which weaves through the threads of history and memory over time defines another.
Drawers are usually for storing objects, for hiding them, keeping them safe, preserving and discarding them. 87 Drawers has a dual
persona, one familiar, approachable, domestic, alongside another, an untouchable display in a museum context. The original pieces of
furniture which housed the drawers were not seen as valuable either in monetary or historical terms; they were adequately but not
beautifully made, with little specific craftsmanship, old but not antique, seen today as unfashionable and often recycled. As 87 Drawers
spreads and stretches in self competing disorder across the large museum wall we are witness to the spectacle of a unit revealing its
deconstructed self , open to view, but only for show.
87 Drawers Susan Walsh
Investigating approaches to painting, the use of medium, the way we paint, challenging easel painting by holding the structure freely in one
hand and applying paint through the other - this allows a more fluid approach to painting, an almost organic process in which artist, support,
media and brush work in unison without normally rigid intervention of easel or wall. This approach allows both left and right hand to be
involved in the process, aiding lightness of touch that is needed to produce fine surfaces free of brush marks. This allows the viewer to
engage with the illusion of space on the surface of painting without having to engage with its construction.
Untitled Mark Parkinson
Pink Summits -
Interior: A woman and a man are seated back to back in a long, otherwise empty, narrow room. Each faces a window. The room is well lit by
natural light streaming in through the two windows.
Exterior: Unseen daily hubbub, slightly audible, drifting upon the air.
S. I'd say - yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black.
H. Look, have I ever steered you wrong before? (Waits) Have I ?
S. No. (Pause) Well...yes actually. The auction in Paris.
H. Alright, apart from that incident. No I haven't. So whats the problem?
Photgraph from the Heroes series 2004 Patricia Walsh