Exhibition – Somerset House, London, 12th June – 15th September 2019
Get Up, Stand Up Now – Generations of Black Creative Pioneers
(Header shot: Fashion Shoot Brixton Market 1973 © Armet Francis)
Last week saw some inspiring new installations arrive within the Neoclassical walls of London’s Somerset House; Get Up, Stand Up Now is a collection that not only forms an important documentation of black creatives in Britain but also provides a vibrant treat for your eyes and ears.
Introduction from press release:
‘This summer, Somerset House celebrates the impact of 50 years of black creativity in Britain and beyond, with a landmark exhibition showcasing art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion. It is the first time that this distinguished group of approximately 100 artists are represented together, with their work articulating and addressing the black experience and sensibility, from the post-war era to the present day.
Historic artworks and new commissions sit alongside items from personal archives, much of which has never been seen by the public before. Through these original photographs, letters, films and audio clips, the exhibition connects the creative, the personal and the political, reflecting how artists have responded to the issues of our times.’
From the series ‘We are the Same’ © Campbell Addy
Get Up, Stand Up Now is curated by visual artist Zak Ové and begins close to home with work by his father, Trinidad born Horace Ové, who is widely credited as being the first black British feature film director (Pressure, 1975). Along with a group of his Windrush generation peers, Horace broke down barriers that encouraged younger multicultural artists to develop their own creativity and voices. Screenings of a selection of his films will form part of the exhibition. Amongst his contemporaries also exhibited are social documentary photographers Armet Francis, Charlie Phillips and Vanley Burke, often referred to as ‘the Godfather of black British photography’.
Still from Neneh Cherry, Kong 2018 © Jenn Nkiru
Elsewhere in the exhibition you can find exquisite stills and film from visionary artist and director Jenn Nkiru and stunning shots from high fashion photographer and film-maker Campbell Addy, photographer and visual activist Ajamu and Benji Reid, who describes his work as ‘choreo-photolist’, where theatricality, choreography and photography meet in a single or series of images. The exhibits individually are head-turning; in their entirety they form a fascinating collection of artistry covering the last 5 decades.
From Circus Master Series 1997 © Ajamu
Musical creativity also plays an integral part in the exhibition, with an exclusive soundtrack mixed by producer DJ Jillionaire streaming inside the gallery, a display of instruments and objects selected by musicians and live percussive performances on scheduled dates. And fashion is high on the agenda too, with a varied selection of sculptural exhibits including an Afro-futuristic cowboy from luminary designer Mowalola Ogunlesi.
Holding onto Daddy © Benji Reid 2016
All in all, Get Up, Stand Up Now offers an immersive experience covering all aspects of the arts. Given the obvious display of talent, it raises the question beautifully of why there isn’t more diversity on show at mainstream exhibitions across the country.
For anyone able to visit this coming weekend (22nd – 23rd June), there are some additional special celebrations taking place to mark National Windrush Day with Generation Get Up!
A host of free interactive events will encompass exclusive film screenings and talks (including a Q&A with actor, director and writer Kwame Kwei-Armah) and pop up studio Backgrounds offering the option to have a free professional portrait taken and share stories of identity and heritage, creating a new collective portrait of Britain today. There will also be an enticing selection of African and Caribbean street food stalls to tempt you before or after your visit.
Top left: Ishmahol Blagrove’s Free Speech Now
Top right: Yinka Shonibare’s Self Portrait (after Warhol)
Bottom: Yinka Shonibare’s Revolution Kid (Calf) and Sanford Biggers’ Woke
All 3 installation shots © Peter Macdiarmid
Get Up, Stand Up Now runs from 12th June – 15th September 2019
Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LA
Opening times: Mon – Tues and Sat – Sun 10 – 6, Wed – Fri 11 – 8 – please check the website for variable admission prices and further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting
All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from Somerset House and are copyrighted as credited
Words (excluding press release extract) by Siobhan
19th June 2019