Firstsite is a modern art gallery and exhibition space in Colchester and was seeking to create an exhibition to launch and celebrate Black History Month 2019 and beyond, and wished to work with local BAME community representatives to deliver an exhibition like no other.
The Super Black was born out of a collaboration with Rachel Walton of AFiUK and three other local BAME influencers to create something outstanding, of long-lasting significance to all communities represented in Colchester and the wider world beyond.
The outcome for The Super Black exhibition
Rachel says, “The most enjoyable and positive thing about my involvement in the Super Black project was choosing the photos, I was making history. The photographs show lived experience; choosing the photographs and artworks from the Arts Council Collection, I selected pieces that related to everyday living. Each image just brought the subject matter alive to present a lifestyle genuinely lived.
“Working with the team at Firstsite was excellent. They were always very helpful, always there for me and my many questions and stories to tell from my cultural point of view.
My favourite Arts Council Collection artwork in the exhibition is the lady who is being baptised. This is immersion baptism and it symbolises the beginning of a new life. I have gone through immersion baptism and this photo just brought out a lived experience and sweet memories of my own new life and new beginning. It is was pure bliss seeing this photo, which ties so well with the main piece ‘In the house of my Father(1997) Donald Rodney’. When I see that, I feel am safe in my ‘Father’s house’ because He holds the whole world in His hands.
“The exhibition features a series of black and white photographs by Vanley Burke and I found these works interesting and decided to include them because they are so powerful. He takes us to our childhood memories - I grew with black & white photos and I still have them right up to the present time. Vanley helps us to appreciate day-to-day situations with ‘new eyes’ and ‘through his eyes’, and he really captures the experiences of his community and brings it to life so that we connect with it easily.
“I have gained so much from this project, and just engaging with it has enhanced my memories of the life that I lived in Kenya where I engaged with art in my everyday life. I miss it dearly, yet the project has brought it back to life. Being involved in directing this project The Super Black has rekindled that joy within me, by promoting positive health and increasing my brain productivity as I chose the photographs. Firstsite’s openness in working with local communities has meant we have been able to capture first-hand, the lived experiences of these communities, since they have provided fascinating and vital cultural information in return, that can only be seen through the ‘eyes of the communities’.
“Art speaks to the heart and to the soul, and many communities appreciates art that they can connect with. Firstsite’s involvement with this project will encourage all kinds of people across Colchester and beyond, from all kinds of cultural backgrounds and heritage, to engage in art that will provide enjoyment, empathy and an increase in critical thinking skills.
“Finally, the other photographs that I personally loved, and spoke to my heart and soul were:
- The marriage photo (wife & husband) - another beginning of new life that I have experienced it and lived that experience. The joy that comes with that photo is enormous. It walked me through memory lane. I remember family coming, celebrating with me and just being happy for me. The cake was made with African animals all around it, food was part of the day and family in Kenya sent me money to help me celebrate it to the full. The only thing that I missed was singing and dancing. but when I called people in Kenya that evening, they were singing and dancing for me – what a joy.
- The man who is sad - and that brought tears because it reminded me of my sister, dad, mum and loved friends who have passed on. It was a moment of sadness for me and I can connect with that pain the man was going through in that moment.”