CREATION FOR LIBERATION

 

 

I took part in all four exhibitions that were organised by Creation for Liberation in Brixton, London from 1983 through to 87, there was no exhibition in 1986.  The venue for the first exhibition was St Mathews Meeting Place, Brixton Hill, in June and July 1983.  It is an event I will never forget as it was the first time I had entered one of my pieces in an exhibition.  I can still remember the euphoria expressed by all who were involved as it was the first time such a large group of Black artists had come together to show the world the result of their endeavour.  Naturally the establishment media took no notice of us but we were happy just to have our work on show.

The ground floor of the building was being used at the time as a church meeting space by one of the many Black churches around Brixton.  The congregation moved freely among the exhibits as they clapped and beat their tambourines while calling down the Holy Spirit.  At one of the Sunday school sessions, towards the end of the exhibition one of my pieces was knocked of its plinth and was damaged beyond repair by a young boy who was running around in the exhibition space; I was duly compensated about a year later. 

Fowokan 2012 

The second exhibition took place at the Brixton Art Collective’s space under the arches on Atlantic Road. I was invited to participate in the selection process and assist with the hanging.  I was very happy with our efforts as the hanging was praised by a curator from one of the national galleries.  I remember we scrubbed down the space and painted the walls and floor before we put up the show. This show was much bigger than the first one at St Mathews, with more than twice as many artists taking part as there were in the first exhibition; there was a lot more wall and floor space to occupy.  But also a lot more artists had heard about Creation for Liberation by then.

 

The third exhibition took place at the Brixton Recreation Centre, Station Road.  This was for me, not an appropriate venue as it was housed in the cricket practise arena. It as a very high, long and narrow room with stark glass and brick walls which is situated below the swimming pool. The air was always dank and smelt of human sweat, not a space for an exhibition, in my opinion, but there wasn’t another space in Brixton large enough to display the works, as the number of exhibitors had almost quadrupled since the first exhibition at St Mathews. There was some disagreement with Creation for Liberation over the selection of certain pieces but the matter was settled by compromise on both sides.  The exhibition was especially memorable for me as I actually shook hands with James Baldwin.  Known artists like Aubrey Williams had began to shown interest in the event and had submitted works to be included in the exhibition and had attended the opening.

 

 

The above images and catalogue are from Margaret Busby's archives 

 

  

There wasn’t an exhibition the following year but in 1987, the event was back at St Mathews Meeting Place but this time it was on the first floor away from the revivalist meetings and Sunday school.  This event was the most elaborate but is the least memorable of all. A lot of money was spent converting the space to look like an art gallery but by now the novelty and excitement had gone out of the event.  The most memorable thing was the hurricane a short while before the opening night.

Creation for Liberation came and went like a shooting star. It had set the foundation for others to follow and soon after organizations like OBAALA (The Black Art Gallery), in Finsbury Park followed along with Caribbean Craft Circle.  The 198 Gallery in Railton Road, Brixton, came into existence a few years later; it is still in existence.  By the middle of the 1990s, with the demise of the GLC and the ILEA, funding had been withdrawn from many of these Black venues which signalled the decline of a euphoric and lively period of Black creativity.

Fowokan 2012


Mango Seed Head

 

This piece, “Mango Seed Head” was the first piece I ever showed publicly; this was in the first Creation for Liberation exhibition at St Mathews Meeting Place, Brixton July 1983.  It was based on early childhood memories of the kinds of nicknames my friends and I called each other while I was growing up in Jamaica. ‘Mango-seed’ described the shape of the head of a particular young boy whose head was quite narrow with its contour giving it a rather distinctive shape. The piece was finished in a very smooth, bright red colour (with obvious allusion to the devil and things devilish) did not sit well in the midst of a Christian congregation. At the time, St Mathews Meeting Place was being used by a Black evangelical church and strangely, Creation for Liberation was also using the space to put on this exhibition. It was no surprise that at the end of a Sunday service my bright red piece of art was found smashed to pieces.