Black Folks Don’t Like Art

Ok, so that was a bit of an attention grabbing headline (sue me), but to an extent, I strongly believe this to be true.

Be honest, would you consider going to see an art exhibition about Oduduwa or would you rather attend a neighbour’s naming ceremony?

I’m not insinuating for a second that we should all be art lovers as I know this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but wouldn’t it be a great if a sizeable percentage of us actually cared to research, preserve and/or appreciate our own art  and history and that of other cultures?

Every time I’ve gone for an art exhibition (which isn’t a lot of times, I might add), I can count with my right hand how many black folks I run into each time, and this includes when the said art exhibition is about Africa or black history.

I don’t know about you, but what I’ve observed is that white folks tend to appreciate our own art and history even more than we do….which probably explains why they’d go as far as stealing some of it to showcase in western museums and galleries.

I was really encouraged recently during the opening of the Black History Museum in Brixton, which unfortunately I couldn’t attend as I had been booked for another event, but the turn out was amazing! There were celebrities like Baroness Floella Benjamin and others that I can’t recall off the top of my head right now and it was just great to see black people come out en masse to celebrate our own history and culture.

The museum has obviously been a long time coming, so let’s hope people actually go to see the exhibitions and discover a bit more about our own history and for other cultures to learn a bit more about us and hopefully understand us better.

I recently went to see ‘The Return of The Rude Boy’ exhibition at Somerset House and it was an enlightening and inspiring experience.

The exhibition was about how youths in the 21st century are still staying true to the ‘Rude Boy’ movement, a 70’s trend which originated in Jamaica and was brought to the UK through Jamaican immigrants.

2014-08-01 16.46.50

In my opinion, what we call ‘swagger’ today clearly originated from this movement where black men and women stood out with their dressing (and I don’t mean the saggy jeans kind of swag). Sharp tailored suits and pork pie hats were the order of the day with shoes that would make Versace green with envy.

2014-08-01 16.48.01 2014-08-01 16.48.59

I enjoyed finding out about this little bit of black history that I had hitherto not even heard about prior to seeing a tweet about it from someone I follow on twitter. After seeing ‘Rude Boy’ in the title, I knew I just had to see it, I mean who else could the exhibition be about if not black people right. Was I Stereotyping? Yes, but was I right? Yes again….thank you.

I haven’t travelled an awful lot, but the few places that I have been too, I’ve made a point of visiting the art galleries or museums there and I do this for a variety of reasons.

  1. It gives me a better perspective about where I am and the culture
  2. I actually love art and wish I had more time to explore

  3. I’m very curious (or nosy) whichever way you choose to look at it, I find it interesting learning about other cultures and vice versa.  I’m most animated when explaining the process of a typical engagement party to my British friends or something of the sort.

  4. Museums are just beautiful and so is art. I love the mystery, the stories that come with it and sometimes, the significance.

I know some would argue that not all white people got to the British museum or are interested in Picasso or Da Vinci, but at least, some try to, and there are actually people who are dedicated to preserving their history and culture.

These people do exist in Africa too, but they are few and are grossly under supported and unappreciated.  How many of our museums are well-kept in Nigeria, except for the private ones (particularly Didi Museum). I now hear there are few more and thanks to social media, I see there are many art exhibitions and plays taking place and this can only be good for our heritage and an industry that has an important role to play in how we’re remembered in a century.

I asked a few friends2014-08-01 16.55.29 2014-08-01 16.56.07 to come with me to Somerset House to see the Rude Boy exhibition and everyone gave me excuses, which I can understand to some extent.

If on the other hand, I’d asked them to come with me to a Tinie Tempah concert or an owambe, I bet they wouldn’t hesitate for a moment or would have been willing to jiggle their busy schedules to accommodate some frivolity.

It just shows where our priorities lie.

While I was there, a white lady and her friend (who I guess were French from their accents) saw me smiling at the re-enacted 70’s  mens  grooming salon that was part of the exhibition, complete with a 70’s type radio and some correct jazz music blaring out, I was just lost in the moment for a second or two enjoying the feeling of being transported into that era and appreciating it.


The women walked up to me and asked what some of the products meant and the equipment. I could see the puzzled look on their faces so I ‘ahem’ took it upon myself to explain the significance of that era to how black people dressed at the time and how it’s influenced us today (craftily leaving out the sagging jeans again).

They absolutely loved it and took home a bit more knowledge about black people on that day.

See art can only be good for us. Let’s build bridges, let’s show art some love.



4 thoughts on “Black Folks Don’t Like Art

  1. Great to read that the Black Cultural Archives has found a permanent home. One of the great attractions of London are the numerous galleries and museums of all shapes and sizes. Mostly free too. My personal favorites include the National Portrait Gallery, Hornimann Museum, British Museum and Museum of Docklands. If ever in Toronto the Ontario Science Center is worth seeing.

  2. I started becoming interested in museums after I took a ceramics class. Once I made art, I appreciated it. Maybe we need to get some African American hands on art class. I enjoyed your blog and you posted some great photos. The photo you discussed is great. The picture that stands out the most to me is the luggage with the photographs decoupaged in. I love old trunks and thought this was a great idea.
    I am taking an art history class and we are currently discussing African art. I am really enjoying checking the relics and hope we will get to see some current African art as well.

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