Somerset House celebrates Black creativity


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Somerset House, next to London’s Waterloo Bridge, used to be home to Admiralty clerks and tax collectors, but these days it is a huge cultural centre. This summer it hosts a celebration called ‘Get Up, Stand Up Now’, which celebrates half a century of Black creativity in Britain.

The show is curated by artist Zac Ové, son of pioneering Trinidadian photographer and film-maker Horace Ové. According to Somerset House, “the hope is to… chip away at the collective amnesia fuelled by mainstream media”.

The show explores migration, the body, and participation, power and resistance, through art, photography, design, film, fashion and a Notting Hill Carnival beer-vendor’s trolley accessorised with Red Stripe cans and a steelpan! The artworks from over 100 creatives is divided into five themes ‑ Motherland, Dream to Change the World, Masquerade, Imaginary Landscapes and Mothership.

The show’s Nigerian-born, London-based designer, Yinka Ilori, specialises in up-cycling vintage furniture, inspired by traditional parables and African fabrics. For this exhibition he has brought a blast of visual drama to the neo-classical rooms and corridors, with bold colours and African batik-style graphics and fabrics. In Victor Ekpuk’s ‘temple to learning’ there is even an Afrofuturist mural, so there is plenty to excite the senses.

On Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 June, there are free screenings of four films, including Horace Ové’s celebrated 1975 film Pressure, described as “a hard-hitting, honest document of the plight of disenchanted British-born black youths”. That’s followed by the premiere of In Those Days, Don Letts’s documentary about the experiences of the first post-war Afro-Caribbean migrants; 1000 Londoners: Windrush Generations, about five generations of Caribbean-heritage Londoners; and BBC Four’s Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle, which looks at what happened after Caribbean migrants arrived on the Empire Windrush 71 years ago.

Stalls will be serving African and Caribbean food and drink in the courtyard and a varied programme of talks, debates and other activities will take place from now until early September.