October is here, which not only means Halloween is around the corner and Christmas is around the corner. That means we are in Black History Month: a series of weeks devoted to the life, history and culture of black people in Britain. Of course, we shouldn’t learn about black history just one month a year. But the annual initiative makes October a great reminder to go to black-run cultural events in London. Would you like to mark the celebration? From black-owned grocery markets to poetry hip-hop nights to British black music exhibitions, London is packed with events in the coming weeks. Read our picks of the best plays, exhibitions and more.
Photo: Chris Bethell
1. Get a taste of what it takes to run a London food business
Curious about the connections between community, food and culture? ‘Feed black“, A free exhibition curated by Aleema Gray, examines the central role of food in African and Caribbean companies in south-east London. Immerse yourself in the stories of four companies – a cash-and-carry, a takeaway, and two restaurants – and the people who run them through recipes and voice recordings. London Docklands Museum. Until July 17, 2022. Free of charge.
2. Attend the black music parties of London’s past
As recently as 2008, on Form 696 – the document used by the police to decide whether a music event should be permitted – no questions were asked of the organizers as to which ethnic groups were expected. Before, it was difficult for venues to host black music eventste rooms across London: barber, churches and living rooms. ‘Dance Can’t Nice: Explore London’s Black Music Spaces“Takes up this again, with the music curation by Adem Holness and installations by the artist Naeem Davxs, the visitors are led into the bedrooms. Horniman Museum. Until October 24th. For free.
Photo: Romeo and Juliet on the globe
3. Go to a last chance performance of “Romeo and Juliet” by Globe’s Black-led
Shakespeare’s tragic story of two beloved teenagers from warring families is one of the playwright’s most beloved plays. This production – with Alfred Enoch (“How to Get Away With Murder”) as Romeo and Rebekah Murrell (The National Theater’s “Nine Night”) as Juliet – is captivating and its cast reflects the capital refreshingly better than many others before it. Shakespeare’s globe. Through October 17: £ 5-59.
4. Watch brilliant ballet from a groundbreaking dance company
Shocked by the lack of professional black and Asian ballet dancers in the UK, Cassa Pancho started her own company. Ballet black, in 2001. Today it is home to some of the world’s best dancers and features some of the most exciting performances in the game. Pancho is bringing her dancers to Watford this October for a double series of new works choreographed by Will Tuckett and Mthuthuzeli November. Think: dynamic movements combined with poetry and music, all of which explore what it means to be at home and to belong to it. Watford Palace Theater. Oct 21, £ 16.
Photo: Ode to Afro-Surrealism
5. See contemporary Afro-Surrealism through the photographer’s lens
The term Afrosurrealism was first coined in 1974 by the writer Amiri Baraka. At the time, he used it to describe a movement led by Henry Dumas that looked to supernatural and surreal things in order to better understand the horrors of reality. The genre has seen a revival lately and if you want a look at how current artists dip their toes in an otherworldly mood, check out ‘An ode to Afro-Surrealism‘. It’s a photo exhibition by Hamed Maiye and Adama Jalloh that explores the spiritual bond between twins. Horniman Museum. Until November 7th. For free.
6. Refuel at a black run food market
Black Eats LDN and Bohemia Place Markets join forces every month to bring you some of the best London food stalls and artisans in London in a market just across from Hackney Central Station. Go down to Black Hackney Market for ingenious vegan (and non-vegan) food, sustainably produced clothing, gifts and much more. It’s the perfect way to support black businesses, and more importantly, it’s a great reason to have something really tasty to eat. Bohemia square. 16.-17. October. Free admission.
Photo: Mrs. Jheni Arboine
7. Honor the black playwrights of the 80s
‘Come together, grow together“Is a celebration of the black British women who created groundbreaking theater in the 1980s. Groups such as Theater of Black Women, Munirah Theater Company, and Black Mime Theater Women’s Troop used the stage as a space to respond to the racism and sexism of the time. The night begins with a screening of the 1980s documentary “Polishing Black Diamonds” about Munirah. Afterwards, Professor Nicola Abram will give a lecture on her book “Black British Women’s Theater” followed by a discussion. Clapham library. 30th of October. For free.
8. Go to a library party
The poet and playwright Inua Ellams is the man behind the brilliant “Barber Shop Chronicles” of the National Theater. He leads an evening of hip-hop-inspired spoken word and music at the London Library. RAP party ten poets and a DJ will come together to give you what may be the most exciting time you have ever had in a library. The London library. 28th of October. £ 10.
9. See the reinterpretation of Renaissance art
When you think of Renaissance art, do you mostly envision paintings by whites? It turned out that the movement captured European life between the 14th and 17th centuries in all of its multicultural glory. There are many black paintings from this period, both life portraits and imaginary biblical subjects. This inspired the opera singer Peter Brathwaite to undertake a project in Lockdown, for which he re-staged Renaissance paintings of black men with everyday objects and his body. Outdoor exhibition ‘Visible skin: rediscovering the renaissance through black portraits“Is the culmination of his work. King’s College London Strand Campus. Until December 10th. For free.
10. Watch an important piece on London’s role in the slave trade
Posted by Winsome Pinnock, ‘Missiles and flashing lights“Tells the story of the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade through the eyes of young black actress Lou as she prepares for a new role in a film about Victorian artist JMW Turner. It alternates between the past and the present in London and offers a new perspective on the British slave trade. National Theater. Until October 9th. £ 20- £ 60.
Photo: Guarionex Rodriguez Jr
11. Enjoy an audiovisual celebration of the black subculture
Nine Nights is an arts, music and creative initiative launched amid the pandemic to empower black artists and combat the impact of the lockdown on nightlife and the live music industry. The ICA takes over with ‘Channel B‘, an audiovisual exploration of Black Futurism. Expect installations inspired by science fiction, political satire, pirate radio, dance floors, and diasporic rhythms. Nine Nights describes the exhibition as “an archive of black subculture” that takes into account surveillance, digital autonomy, non-human intelligence and more. ICA. Oct 12 – Jan 30, 2022. £ 5 free on Tuesdays.
12. See London’s black history come to life online
Can’t visit any exhibitions in person this month? Black cultural archives has free digital ads for you at home. The Brixton-based archive is the UK’s only national heritage center for the preservation of African and Caribbean histories. Get a taste of her work on Our Journey Our Story, the UK’s first sickle cell society exhibition on the history of sickle cell anemia, and Defend Yourself, Unity Is Strength on the Brixton Defense Campaign, an activist from the 1980s group, who protested against police brutality. www.bcaexhibits.org. For free.
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