Socialist Worker

Powerful pictures in south London exhibition of black achievement and resistance

Issue No. 2618

Black Panther members Elizabeth Obi (left) and Olive Morris

Black Panther members Elizabeth Obi (left) and Olive Morris                              Picture: Neil Kenlock

When Neil Kenlock started taking photographs he had a clear mission in mind.

He said, “The images of black people I was seeing were not up to standard. They had no charisma, no strength.

“I decided then that I would never photograph anyone I didn’t see strength and determination in.”

Since the 1960s Kenlock has been true to his intention and his lens has been a persistent witness of black British lives.

The spread of his work is testament to a photographer intent on documenting the fullest range of struggle, achievement and everyday life of post Windrush migration.

So in this collection there are a number of quiet and less celebrated “firsts”.

Trade union activist Randolph Beresford is pictured adorned with the mayoral regalia that accompanied the post he occupied for the London borough of Hammersmith in 1975.

Beresford was a pivotal figure in a fundraising drive to secure justice for Kelso Cochrane, whose racist murder in 1959 triggered the birth of the Notting Hill carnival.

There’s a looming portrait of Baron Pitt of Hampstead, a campaigner against racial discrimination, magistrate and chair of the Greater London Council.

This civil rights activist would later be elected president of the British Medical Association.

Vanley Burke’s iconic images of Birmingham
Vanley Burke’s iconic images of Birmingham
  Read More

Yet the most arresting images are those that strike a marked contrast to the pleasantries and deportment of the first generation migrants.

This is spectacularly demonstrated in a 1976 photograph of three Rastafarians. Their rigid locks speak total defiance.

“They were concerned about culture and how they saw themselves.

“They had rejected the church, society generally and they decided to create their own god, their own institutions for their own needs,” Kenlock explained when interviewed by Socialist Worker.

Another seminal image dates from 1974 in the offices of West Indian World, the first nationwide black newspaper.

Amid overrun in-trays and typewriters at the rear of the room there hangs a print of Olaudah Equiano, the eighteenth century writer and abolitionist.

Leila Howe Hassan, a member of Black Unity and Freedom Party and editor of Race Today, is being interviewed by Barbara Bees.

Bees was a member of the British Black Panthers. Kenlock says, “The movement in the UK was about educating people.

“They were the first to understand the system, capitalism and how people looked at racism and discrimination.”

Bees was also one of the Mangrove Nine whose 1971 trial following police raids and harassment saw campaigner Darcus Howe’s celebrated acquittal.

That gear change, from first arrival to first resistance, is tangible.

So is the push for political and legal change which is captured in a 1975 photo taken at a Brixton Community Neighbourhood meeting.

It shows home secretary Roy Jenkins listening as activist Courtney Laws holds court.

With under 30 images on display from Kenlock’s thousands-strong archive the exhibition is frustratingly short. There’s clearly plenty more to come.

The Untold Story of Black British Community Leaders in the 1960s and 1970s. Black Cultural Archives,1 Windrush Square, London, SW2 1EF. Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-6pm. Until 28 September. Free

Herstory: Women Artists from the Collection of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Herstory features artworks by some of the leading female artists of the last 40 years including Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Mona Hatoum and Sarah Lucas.

The exhibition explores how they have radically altered the face of contemporary art.

In addition to the works from Re Rebaudengo’s collection, the exhibition showcases select items from Touchstone’s art, museum and local history collections. It offers further resonance to some of the issues being addressed.

Touchstones Rochdale. The Esplanade, OL16 1AQ Until 29 September Tickets up to £15

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Mon 20 Aug 2018, 16:26 BST
Issue No. 2618
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