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Guest Blog Post: Black Feminist Artists, Writers and Collectives

Tammi Bello, a placement student from Birkbeck College exploring black feminist artists, writers and collectives in Stuart Hall Library with a display of publications from the collection. 

Books, Journals and Zines in Stuart Hall Library on Black Feminist Artists, Writers and Collectives, May 2021.

Black women have a long history of organising and building groups in which they share stories and experiences, then drawing on the parallels between them to make work and create discourse. This is why collectives are so important to the wider movement, they created and exhibited together. Without them the artists that we see now making waves in the mainstream wouldn’t have had the platform to do so. Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Bell Hooks, or Beverly Bryan could not have gotten to the place they’re at now without that early collective backing. This nature is still seen in black feminist workings today, they are all part of something bigger.

The UK Black Arts Movement for example did not have a strong feminist discourse before Claudette Johnson brought the issues to the forefront at the first National Black Arts Conference in 1982 which led to a deeper discussion in the Women’s’ workshop and was a pivotal moment in the UK’s black feminist art movement. This can be seen as the beginning of the collective identity for these women, and what sets them apart from the wider feminist movement. Casting your eyes across the display the words that stick out are: Girl-hood, Womanhood, Sisters, liberation, making the movement about the work that they have the potential to do for each other and the solidarity shared between them, the true ‘sisterhood’.

This display highlights and responds to the rich ways in which Black Women have responded to gaps in feminist discourse, and how they have made their herstories known. It exhibits perspectives from different parts of the world at different times, baring a striking resemblance to one another, emphasising that as black women the connection they share transcends space and time. The definition of ‘collective(s)’ here is far more overarching than a group who creates together, but we are looking at the collective as a backing for the creation of work and ideas, the platform building resistance that backs so many Black Feminist pursuits. With the women of the UK having commonality to those in the US, and the conversations within different parts of the UK forming that ‘collective’ identity.

The resources referred in this display are available at the Stuart Hall Library and can be browsed in the online catalogue here.

Watch Behind The Display

Biography

Tammi Bello is a curator and art historian with research interests in Black British postcolonial feminist and queer narratives. Her work attempts to displace Eurocentricity, reimaging what artistic discourse could or should be. Tammi is currently studying for an MA in Museum Cultures with Curating at Birkbeck, University of London and working with iniva as a Programme Assistant.