Review: Black Cultural Archives

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This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Windrush Generation – a group of people who emigrated from the Caribbean to Britain aboard the SS Empire Windrush, which arrived at the Tilbury Dock on 22nd June 1948. The Black Cultural Archives, based in Windrush Square, Brixton, held two free exhibitions which marked the occasion.

Expectations Exhibition

The Expectations Exhibition tells the untold story of Black British Community Leaders in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The photos were taken by Neil Kenlock, an influential young photographer during that time. Below is just a sneek peak of what you can expect to see at this exhibition which runs until the end of September. For more information contact: info@kenlockphotography.com

Influential Photographer: Neil Kenlock

Neil Kenlock’s parents

Brixton Market

West Indian World – the 1st National Black Newspaper

Family Ties – The Adamah Papers Exhibition

The Adamah Papers Exhibition tells the untold story of the Adamah Family who have historical connections with both Ghana and Britain. The important figure here is Togbui Adamah ll – a royal figure in Ghana who had 5 wives and 24 children with family ties spreading from Ghana to Britain over the years. Below are just a few of the amazing artefacts which can be seen in this spectacular exhibition.

African Royalty: Togbui Adamah ll (Centre)

Display table

A suitcase of letters

Traditional African Cartoon

Beautifully Woven Fabric

(C) Copyright 2018, Darell J Philip

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Review: Nelson Mandela – The Centenary Exhibition

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On 18th July 1918 a President was born. Not any President but one who would suffer adversity, scorn and prejudice, spending a number of years in the wilderness before, like Moses, being called to free his fellow men from years of physical, mental and emotional slavery. This year marks the 100th birthday of inspirational freedom fighter and world renowned South African President, Nelson Mandela. To celebrate the birth of this great man, a centenary exhibition about his life was held at the Southbank Centre during the summer break.

Humble Beginnings

Comrade

Split into six themes, each chronicling his life, the start begins with Mandela’s birth in a rural village, where, along with other boys and girls, he went to school and belonged to the Madiba tribe – given the name Rolihlahla which means, ‘troublesome one.’ Mandela lived up to his name though the trouble he caused was perhaps for good reason, having to live in a society where apartheid (segregation on the grounds of race) ruled the day. From an early age Mandela is marked out by friends and those who knew him on the ground, as a promising leader and one able to work as part of a team in negotiating to improve the lives of those being unfairly oppressed and discriminated against purely on the grounds of race.

Apartheid regime

Training in the Wilderness

Troublesome One

Trained as a lawyer and skilled as a boxer, Mandela had both the intellectual and physical qualities needed to make it to the top but it would not be an easy journey there. The trouble he and his friends would cause to those in authority would land him in prison where for 27 years he would learn, in solitude, for himself, it would be A Long Walk to Freedom.

Freedom Fighter

Prisoner

A Long Walk to Freedom

Freedom

Mandela’s release from prison on 11th February 1990 was momentous for it would change the course of time, heralding a new era for the people of South Africa. The iconic image of Mandela and his then wife, Winnie, pumping their fists in the air like those seen in the American Black Panther movement of the 1960’s, would reverberate around the world, where many, had for years, been protesting for his release.

History in the Making

King and Queen Mandela

Then on 10th May 1994, history was made as Mandela was elected as the first ever Black President of South Africa and leader of the ANC (African National Congress). Under his leadership, Mandela sought to end the apartheid regime which, for many decades, had disempowered and oppressed both him and his people.

An Enduring Legacy

Iconic Trailblazer

Mandela’s death on 5th December 2013 at the age of 95, though leaving many sad, also left many with a good cause to celebrate. Not only did he leave behind a legacy which sought to bring the races together in South Africa and beyond but he also demonstrated, like Dr Martin Luther King Jnr before him, that those from African American descent could be good leaders. Such was the influence of both the South African President and the inspirational Civil Rights Leader, that they paved the way for America’s first ever President of African American descent in Barack Obama. There also appears to be some symbolism in the death of his original Queen, Winnie, earlier this year. Trailblazer, icon, writer, world leader and humble servant – Mandela, we salute you.

(c) Copyright 2018, Darell J Philip

Guardian Live Presents: Gary Younge and Afua Hirsch: Brit(ish)

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Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

When writer and broadcaster, Afua Hirsch, shared with Guardian Members some personal life experiences taken from her recently released book – British – On Race, Identity and Belonging, it took me down memory lane. Revisiting an occasion when a proud Englishman told me that I was not British made me understand the author’s frustration. In my case, having been questioned on my identity and to his surprise learning that I was born in England and so too were both my parents, the Englishman then proudly exclaimed that I was not British since my grandparents hailed from the Caribbean. If that was not enough of an issue in itself then think about those questionnaires we get where we are asked to describe what ethnicity we belong to. I suddenly find myself having to consider what box to tick – do I go for Black British or perhaps Black African/Caribbean?

Cognitive Disonance

Afua Hirsch in conversation with Gary Younge

In her interesting conversation with senior Guardian journalist, Gary Younge, Hirsch repeatedly remarked on there being a cognitive disonance amongst Brits when discussions on race and the role the country played in the slave trade and empire are brought up. 

“I didn’t find race, race found me; in the playground or the classroom, on the street, in the shops,” says the author, who is both an Oxford graduate and qualified human rights lawyer. Her mixed-race identity is linked to her mother – a black African from Ghana and her white father who was born to a mother who came from Yorkshire and a father who came to Britain as a Jewish German refugee. It was these multiplicity of identities, especially those relating to her Jewishness and blackness (two ethnicities with histories of oppression and slavery) which prompted Hirsch to become a human rights lawyer. She says: “No one can police your identity from the outside. We must learn from the lessons of history. While the history of the holocaust was easily accessible to me, the history of the slave trade was rather obscure. This must change.”

New Years Honours List

The writer with the author

In reference to a question regarding her thoughts on the system of new years honours she said: “It seems a lot more individuals of colour are being honoured in this way almost in a plea to silence them from acknowleging that slavery and empire ever existed.” However, the author ended the night with optimism. “It’s conversations like these which begin to break down barriers and lead to open-mindedness and an acceptance of history for what it truly was which in turn enables us all to move forward together.”

Brit(ish) – On Race, Identity and Belonging (2018) by Afua Hirsch is out now in all good bookshops.

(C) Copyright 2018, Darell J Philip

CLASSIC BOOK REVIEW: An Artist Of The Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro (1986), Faber & Faber

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30th Anniversary Edition (2016)

Winner of the 1986 Whitbread Book of the Year and shortlisted for the 1986 Booker Prize, Kazuo Ishiguro’s – An Artist of the Floating World (1986) celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016 having been published to great acclaim both then and now. 

Included in the Observer’s 2015 list of the 100 best novels in English, (no.94 on the list), Ishiguro’s 2nd novel concentrates on a Japan pre and post war along with the impact of change to Japan and its people subsequent to the latter period of history.

The narrator – Masuji Ono – is a retired artist, bearing the secret of a past which is always bubbling beneath the surface waiting to explode at any time. 

When it comes to writing about Japan and its people, Ishiguro is a master of such, himself having been born in Nagasaki. He is also adept at delicately portraying the, at times, very complicated relationships between young and old, teacher and student along with father and children as each group attempt to find their place within an ever changing world after the war. 

The influence of the Western World as demonstrated through the grandson’s (Ichiro) love of cowboys and Pop-eye (American and European respectively) runs throughout the narrative, as does the struggle to negate for the past in the face of an ever changing present and future.

As such, An Artist of the Floating World, is a grand work well worthy of the acclaim to which its ascribed and clearly marks out Ishiguro as one of the finest writers in the English language.
(C) Copyright 2017, Darell J Philip

Hero of Hacksaw Ridge by Booton Herndon, Remnant Publications (2016)

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Hero of Hacksaw Ridge

Booton Herndon’s Hero of Hacksaw Ridge is the official authorized story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist who, as a war medic, saved over 75 lives without the use of a single weapon. The book is the gripping true story that inspired the Mel Gibson directed film – Hacksaw Ridge, which picked up two Academy Awards (Oscars) for Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing in February this year.

Like the film, the book gives a fascinating account of a young man ridiculed for his faith in God but who would later become an inspirational American war hero, embraced and loved by the same comrades who had before shunned him. Such was the respect for Doss that he would be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honour, the nation’s highest honour presented to the nation’s heroes for outstanding gallantry beyond the call of duty in actual combat. The fact that Doss became the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honour was all the more fascinating.

In an interview with The Guardian, actor, Andrew Garfield, who is widely known for playing the role of Spiderman and took the lead role as Doss in Hacksaw Ridge said: “I think everyone can relate to that feeling of exile. That feeling of being misunderstood, not being seen in a deep way. Kind of kept out of the inner circle.” Highlighting the qualities that make Doss such a hero in Hacksaw Ridge, Garfield added: “He was treating Japanese soldiers in the middle of a war. He doesn’t see skin colour. He doesn’t see an enemy. He sees humanity.”

Upon watching the film or reading the book, this sense of humanity will also be seen as we are reminded of the acts of bravery from those before which make it possible for all of us to be here today.

References:

Andrew Garfield Never Compromised Who Was Spiderman, The Guardian, 30th December 2016.


(c) Copyright 2017, Darell J Philip

BOOK REVIEW: HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi (2016) (Viking)

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016)

In her debut novel – Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi has produced a work which will be heralded and spoken of by many generations. The story begins with the lives of Effia and Esi – two sisters who are taken on different journeys which impact upon the generations that follow.

Homegoing is a journey beginning in the African Gold Coast and ending in Harlem, America. While the story is fictionalised, you do get a sense of the various characters and settings being ones which are close to the heart of the author – herself having been raised in Huntsville, Alabama in America but born in Mampong, Ghana.

Not since the publication of Alex Haley’s Roots (1976) has there been such a pivotal work which demonstrates the plights of slavery and its impact on future generations, albeit, perhaps, on a whirlwind tour in contrast to the depth of narrative to be found Roots. What perhaps comes through more clearly in Homegoing though is not only the importance of history and how it shapes us but also the fact that this history is to be celebrated as it is remembered. Its a past not only of suffering and shame but also of beauty and hope. As each character from each generation tells his or her story, the reader is reminded that every person is significant with a unique story to tell which are all intricately linked within a trail which forms a part of our identity and culture while not necessarily defining our destiny.

Homegoing is not only an inspirational novel but also a triumphant one because it resonates so well with each generation – from those who felt the full force of slavery to those who were arrested during civil rights marches along with those who made it into Stanford University, learning about their true yet often hidden ancestry and history along the way.  

Homegoing is a novel that reconnects culture with history, thereby enabling readers to make sense of the present while offering hope for the future because of the strength of the generations before, leading to the rich legacy they have left behind as a result. 

(C) Copyright 2017, Darell J Philip