The 87-year-old pioneering abstract British painter Frank Bowling is celebrated in three art venues during summer 2021, as he joined the Hauser & Wirth gallery.

The largest collection of his recent paintings in on display at Arnolfini, Bristol’s main art centre, in a show titled ‘ Land of Many Waters’. It is the artist’s first museum exhibition since his critically acclaimed and long overdue retrospective at Tate Britain in 2019, which cemented his reputation as a ‘modern master’.

It results from collaboration with his wife, artist Rachel Scott, his son Ben Bowling, and the Arnolfini’s curator Gemma Brace. …


The pioneering Lubaina Himid and Sonia Boyce paved the way for Black women artists in Britain. Both have incredible work on display this year that you absolutely must see.

Sonia Boyce’s exhibition In The Castle Of My Skin (11 June 2021–12 September 2021) is currently on show at MIMA — the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Next year she will also be the first Black female artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale.

Boyce works with a variety of media — drawing, print, photography, video and audio. Born in 1962 in Islington, London, in a British Afro-Caribbean family, she…


2021 is a great year of reckoning for many Black women artists in the UK, from the great winner of the 2017 Turner Prize Lubaina Himid to critically acclaimed Sonia Boyce, but also for young and upcoming artists. And an amazing set of exhibitions allows us to enjoy their powerful work this summer and autumn.

It starts with the exceptional Mother of Mankind exhibition on view at the House Of Fine Arts Mayfair space in London, which is free and open until 31 August. The Ghanaian gallerist Adora Mba especially curated it to feature 16 global Black women artists, with…


Melissa Chemam

19 July 2021

In the 80’s, Bristol was one of the pioneering graffiti art hotspots in the world and a new exhibition pays tribute to its history

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A new exhibition at the M Shed museum in Bristol sheds a light on its exciting street art scene: “Vanguard | Bristol Street Art: The evolution of a global movement”.

In the first rooms, artists and photographers have shared personal photos and archives of their work on walls during a key decade for graffiti culture: the 1980s. From then on, Bristol played a huge role in the evolution of this…


By Melissa Chemam

All over the world, since the toppling of this one in Bristol, the ripple effect has been felt everywhere and people who had hardly heard of Bristol, UK, suddenly penned their opinion about a movement they had not seen coming. They didn’t know about Countering Colston, or the activism that demanded the removal of the statue or the change of name of the Colston Hall — now Beacon (of hope?) — but admit Bristol people were pioneers.

The statue of Edward Colston, as exhibited at Bristol’s M Shed museum (photo by Melissa Chemam)

But let’s go back to Colston and the significance of the moment before I end this blog post.

In his…


  • By Melissa Chemam

At the esteemed Wagner Books, Nella is also the only Black employee and despite her two-year lobbying to instigate conversations on diversity, the literary world is anything but receptive.

That is… until “another Black girl” is finally hired. The stunning and confident Hazel left a job in a magazine in “too-white” Boston to work at Wagner as the assistant of an unproductive editor. Nella is shocked and thrilled at the same time and hopes that Hazel will become her new favourite colleague. But Hazel seems to charm everyone else in such a whirlwind, especially Nella’s boss. She…


One of my poems has been published this month of May 2021…

Heavenly Gardens

An enemy of our future

Is walking by at dawn.

Our city, darker and darker,

Violated by a gesture,

All broken, drowned and done.

Paris floats like a dreamer.

Its people have become ghosts,

Lost in fear and in terror

Due to men whose hearts turned to stone.

Our meaning has gotten lost

And we no longer can honour

The promise we’ll never be alone.

After death should have come heaven,

We could only find blurred limbos.

Our children will have to look at a glow,

For a…


by MELISSA CHEMAM

Though these past few years have brought improvement, too often Black voices are left out of the conversation on environmentalism and sustainability. So is the Global South in general. In mainstream western media, white activism is celebrated, even from places where the climate emergency has so far had a smaller impact than in parts of Africa, America and Asia — ravaged by floods, droughts and other disasters affecting biodiversity.

A symbol of this appropriation was the photograph where the young Uganda activist Vanessa Nakate was posing with other teen activists including Swedish school-striker Greta Thunberg… A photo…


Melissa Chemam

Who in France did not dance the “Mia” in 1994? The track on the second album of IAM’s Ombre est lumière made this collective of rappers and breakdancers from Marseille — absolute fans of New York rap — known throughout the country. If IAM remains little known to the English-speaking public, it nevertheless reflects the incredible journey of French rap, and the unexpected appearance of Marseille on the cultural map.


Set up in 1961 as a bookshop on Clifton Triangle, Arnolfini has grown from humble roots to become a pioneer of interdisciplinary contemporary arts, with an ambitious and eclectic programme of visual art, performance, dance, film and music. As the arts centre celebrates its 60th anniversary, Melissa Blease asks for past, present and future perspectives of this iconic institution

In 1961, Bristol artists Jeremy and Annabel Rees opened a tiny art gallery above a bookshop on the Clifton Triangle, naming it after Jeremy’s favourite painting The Arnolfini Wedding by Jan van Eyck and promising that the Arnolfini would ‘seek out…

Melissa Chemam

Freelance journalist/writer, I’ve reported in 30 countries for the BBC, CBC, DW, magazines, on African-European relations, social change, arts, music & politics

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