EXHIBITIONS 1980s - 90s


Discovering Black Art in the 1980s and 90s.

I can still remember the excitement I felt on first discovering that there were other Black people creating art in this country.  It all began for me back in 1983, with the first major exhibition of the work of Black artists by Creation for Liberation at St Mathews Church Hall Brixton. That exhibition was the first of three shows that heralded the birth of Black art in the UK. In the 1970s the Keskidee Theatre Workshop was an arts centre in Islington, that showcased the artistic talent in our community but its emphasis was on the performing arts; it would however put on the occasional art exhibition that ran alongside performances. Later in 1983 OBAALA or the Black Art Gallery opened its doors in Finsbury Park and was the first gallery that catered exclusively for the needs of our community.  This was later followed by the 198 Gallery in Brixton, at the end of the 80s. These organizations flourished with funding from the GLC, the ILEA, GLAA, the CRE and local councils.  Unfortunately after a period of euphoria and creative outburst it all came to an end when the political climate changed towards the middle of the 1990s and the funding came to an end.  It was a very exciting period which forced the establishment to take notice. Our achievements showed that Black people were capable of doing more than the menial tasks our parents were forced to do when they first arrived in this country in the 50s and 60s; it also proved that young Black people could do more than rioting in the streets.

The movement was mainly made up of the first generation of Black people to be born and educated up to degree level in this country.  Many of them were fired up with a great deal of anger and rage, for they were victims who suffered the numbing effects of invisibility, prejudice and racism; and were bursting to be seen and heard.  Then there were others like myself who had grown up in this country and were determined to avoid the educational institutions but preferred the University of Life and the street.  We had spent many years alone in obscurity honing our skills and craft.  We were not however the first Black artists to have lived and worked in this country.  Artists such as Barrington Watson had studied in the UK and Italy before returning to Jamaica. Frank Bowling came from what was British Guyana and had won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1959, and on graduation in 1962 was awarded the Silver Medal in Painting, he still lives and work in the UK, and is an Academician at The Royal Academy of Arts.  The Caribbean Artists Movement of the 1960s, which was mainly a literary group, had visual artists among its membership; with artists such as Ronald Moody, Aubrey Williams, Ritchie Riley and Errol Lloyd. Ronald Moody’s work is now in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate Modern. Those older artists were of the colonial period and so their work did not express the same degree of rage as the later generation whose work reflected a greater Black consciousness.

I began developing an interest in art when I mistakenly walked into The National Gallery, on my first solo venture into the West End back in 1957, shortly after arriving in England.  I kept this up by visiting galleries and museums and places of interest wherever I travelled but was totally unaware of any Black art or artists before I began making art.  There have been a few Black artists since those heady days who have won the Turner Prize among today’s generation of Black artists. They are well ensconced in the British art establishment scene; their pieces change hands for many thousands of pounds; something none of the Black artists of the previous generation were able to achieve. How much, if anything, do they owe those angry young artists who had trod the boards before them without much in the way of monetary rewards, many of whom are no longer practitioners but have become writers, teachers and art administrators?


Aug. 2012






4th SEPT 1983


Left to right: Mamadi (Drumcall), Fowokan, Shakka Dedi, Anum Ayapo, Tyrone Bravo, Joseph Olubo, Cherry Laurence, Olive Desnoes, Marlene Smith, Vanley Burke, Pogus Caesaer, Kith Piper, Terence Dyer. (Middle) Ossie Murray. (Front -  Kora Players) Tunde Jegede, Sunjally Jobarteh.




An exhibition of Arts nd Crafts

Presented by the Greater London Council

Organised by the Caribbean Craft Circle









Caribbean Craft Circle Exhibition March 1987