A mesmerising performance
Students, Fellows and members of the public were captivated by a lecture from Ghanaian-British writer, Ekow Eshun at Oriel College in May. Ekow, who is Chairman of the Fourth Plinth, an editor and curator, delivered the annual Rex Nettleford Lecture on Colonialism and its Legacies.
Focusing on visual art from Black and European artists spanning centuries, Ekow examined how recent works of art, pop culture and film from the African diaspora may be ‘carving out a space’ to imagine future ‘ways of being Black’ in the world. Ways of being that are free from the restraints that the legacy of colonialism places on Black people. This included an example from Beyoncé’s 2016 film and visual album Lemonade.
Ekow described a creative space where Black culture can, in a playful way, ‘reimagine itself’, free from the external constraints of everyday life. He explained that this was not an act of escapism, but more one of survival, where the creative process could be used to help work out how to deal with the reality of navigating life as a Black person.
A journey into a positive creative space
He described this as a journey – ‘In the Black Fantastic’ – and used examples from the 2022 exhibition that he curated, with the same name. This showcased the work of 11 contemporary artists from the African diaspora, who draw on science fiction, myth and Afrofuturism to question our knowledge of the world.
He explained that artworks in the exhibition invited the viewer to imagine fantastical futures, where fantasy becomes a zone of creative and cultural liberation and a means of addressing racism and social injustice by conjuring new ways of being in the world.
The lecture explored the landscape of ideas and imagery that informed his acclaimed book also called In the Black Fantastic, to chart the ways that Black creatives are drawing inspiration from African-originated myths, beliefs, and knowledge systems. He showed how Black artists are using this to question existing ways of looking at and being in the world, that are heavily influenced by Western thought and belief systems, and to invent something new that may be more liberating and hopeful.
Essay prize winners celebrate success
Winners of the Rex Nettleford Year 12 Essay Competition on Colonialism and its Legacies, attended the lecture with their families and teachers. The competition is multidisciplinary, giving students the opportunity to approach different aspects of colonialism from a wide variety of perspectives.
The winning essays were:
Pick an object that you think illuminates the legacies of colonialism and explain why and how by Isaac Gavaghan and What role do the arts play in the creation or challenging of racialised hierarchies? – by Rufus Shutter
Special commendations also went to: Fatima Dambatta, Elicia Brance, and Raian Gantra with essays responding to the question: How long do the legacies of colonialism last?
To learn more about the Rex Nettleford Prize, please click here.