Rowan Windsor 1st June 2017
Tanzanian Lubaina Himid nominated for the most prestigious global art award
Over the past 30 years, Tanzanian born Lubaina Himid MBE has been at the forefront of challenging the institutional visibility of black culture and identity through contemporary art. Focusing mainly on cultural and individual histories, her work celebrates black culture and creativity through paintings, print, installations and drawings. Much of her work is based around reclaiming the black identities that are overlooked or overshadowed by historical events and making unheard voices audible.
She is regarded by many as a pioneer for the British Black Arts Movement. Throughout the 80s Himid began exhibiting the works of her peers in an effort to promote art from underrepresented groups on the contemporary art scene. Unwittingly, her exhibits brought together and gave visibility to the artists that would go on to form the Black British Arts Movement—a politically motivated, radical movement challenging racial and gender representations. The movement created a platform exposing black art that was able to “...fill the gaps in history...the experienced histories which you have to interpret.”—a frequently visited theme in Himid’s work; rather than present “written histories or taught histories”, Himid’s art challenges institutional visibility by examining individual pasts and experiences, as opposed to rudimentary historical documentations of black people. Her 2004 installation Naming the Money addressed historical european art that depicts white aristocratic families alongside a single black servant. Himid humanised the histories of black servants and labourers historically covered up by Europe’s moneyed classes; each of her 100 cardboard cut-outs are accompanied by their story and their name. She described this arrangement as a representation of a gathering between the figures, sharing conversations and stories that would have been overlooked by the wealthy who disguised and glamourised slavery.
Himid continues to challenge institutional invisibility through her art work. She regularly explores ‘belonging’, what it means to belong, and as a result, how black people contribute to the cultural landscape of Britain, historically as well as currently. Hmid is passionate about that people of the black diaspora feel they belong wherever they are and that their contribution to the history of a place is acknowledged, creating “...room for dialogue and progress”. One of her recent exhibitions Invisible Strategies shown at the Modern Oxford from the 21st of January to the 30th of April , uses the same provocative themes to demand thought and discussion from its audience. The works exhibited range from the 1980s to the present day, including Revenge: A masque in five tableaux series, a collection of paintings which retell European artworks from the perspective of two black women. Five (1991) depicts two women in the midst of intense dialogue, a space at their table facing the audience which Himid described as an invitation for the audience to join the conversation.
Himid has received increasing positive critical reception in past years for her work years for her work and has recently been nominated and made it to the final four nominees shortlisted for the 2017 Turner Prize, the most prestigious visual arts award in the world. Lubaina is the oldest person to have been nominated for the prize, since the award began to accept artists over 50 earlier this year. The Turner prize will be staged outside of london at Hull’s Feren art gallery and will run from the 26th September to the 7th January 2018. Good luck Lubaina and thank you for being a voice representing race, gender and age.