Autumn News//Letter 2021: Art — Beyond Black and White

Dear friends, colleagues, culture & art lovers,

I hope this email finds you well!

Please, allow me to share with you my latest newsletter, probably the last of 2021.

For more on my writing and reflections about art, multiculturalism, post-colonial history, activism, here are a few links and events to come.

Firstly, my recent piece for The Reader’s Digest ahead of a fantastic season in England’s main art venues:

These Black Britons have produced some of the most thought-provoking and envelope pushing art for decades

This year sees an array of exhibitions by leading Black British artists, and as the writer in residence at Arnolfini in Bristol, Melissa Chemam shares her selection of five ground-breaking Black British artists. Read here.

Meanwhile… Do have a look at latest issues of @TheMarkazReview:

Read about notions of displacement & indigeneity from all over the Greater Middle East in this incredible edition:

With texts from Istanbul, Morocco, Turkey, Iran… And original stories reflecting Amazigh, Armenian, Bedouin, Kurdish, Sephardic, Black Iranian identities, and other diverse cultures of the MENA.

Later in October, a dynamic new literary festival of national significance will also take place in Bristol in October 2021.

It aims to enhance, encourage and increase representation from the ‘working class’ across the country, whilst connecting authors, readers, agents and editors.

The artistic director is Natasha Carthew, an award-winning working-class writer and poet, a passionate campaigner for working-class representation in the arts.

I’ve been asked to be part of it! I’ll run a workshop on ‘Writing in English as a Second Language’, on Saturday 23 October here in Bristol, at the Knowle West Media Centre.

I’ll also be part of the panel discussion:

Can words truly inspire a better world?’

I’ll also run a writing workshop at the Knowle West Media Centre on Saturday: details on their website soon.

African & Diaspora Artists at Arnolfini

And finally, as some of you may know, I worked for a year on a book with and for the art gallery Arnolfini, here in Bristol, as their writer in residence. I’m so excited to share the result soon!

The art book will finally be released later in October in PDF and physical copies, and we are organising online events, with the gallery and UWE, to generate a wider discussion.

Some of the artists mentioned are from the UK; others were born in the USA, Trinidad, Jamaica, Montserrat; others from Sudan, Algeria, Morocco, Ethiopia or Ghana…

Most of them had to first work in the margins, or to form their own groups and find their personal space to be exhibited and deliver another vision of the arts / the world we live in.

These are themes that have haunted my work as a journalist, researcher and writer since the mid-2000s at least…

‘Still I Rise’, Arnolfini, 2019

Since the 2000s, many of these artists have been simultaneously exhibiting in London, Liverpool, Nottingham, New York, Berlin, Venice and further. John Akomfrah, Veronica Ryan, Keith Peiper, Donald Rodney, Sonia Boyce, Hassan Hajjaj, Frank Bowling, etc.

That’s why I’d love to create dialogues and generate further encounters with African artists exhibiting in other parts of the world, when this book is out.

The book will be available in PDF for educational purposes and in physical copies at Arnolfini’s bookshop.

Do get in touch if you’re interested in reading and/or taking part in our wider discussion!

As part of an exhibition at M Shed, Bristol’s history museum, I’ve been asked to write a chapter in the ‘Vanguard’ Book about the first graffiti artists in Bristol in the first part of the 1980s. The producers of the show organise a book launch and have invited the legendary John Nation and me to talk about the scene.

It should have been on Thursday 30 September 2021, at Waterstones, Bristol — Galleries — but due to an artist being ill, it’s postponed to late October.

Join us for an in-depth exploration of the evolution of Bristol street art, accompanying the exhibition at Bristol MShed. Contributors Melissa Chemam and John Nation will lead a reading and Q&A before signing copies of the book. Prolific artist Eco, whose piece ‘Helloblue’ features in the exhibition, will be launching and signing limited edition prints live on the night.
The book navigates the historic triumphs and hardships of street art’s anarchist origins in the 1980s and 90s, the explosion of work in the early 2000s and its rise beyond Bristol to engage with the broader global conversation.

In the meantimes, you can also find my first book there, Massive Attack: Out of the Comfort Zone.

And for more on the Bristol’s street art scene, here is my recent article for Reader’s Digest:

In the 80’s, Bristol was one of the pioneering graffiti art hotspots in the world. A new exhibition at the M Shed museum in Bristol pays tribute to its history. Read here.

From this month of October, I’m now teaching 5 (!) different modules in journalism, media production and creative industries — including lectures about music journalism, films, news programmes…

It’s quite a commitment and I’m grateful to be trusted in these tasks, to learn so much along the way.

I still have a few projects in writing and podcasts coming up… More next year about them.

Feel free to get in touch if any of these ideas above speak to you.

Many thanks for your attention!

With my very best wishes,

Writer, Journalist, Researcher

Senior Lecturer in Media at UWE Bristol

Writer in residence at Arnolfini Art Gallery

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