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Get Up Stand Up Now @ Somerset House (12 Jun-15 Sept) Get Up Stand Up Now @ Somerset House (12 Jun-15 Sept)
Get Up Stand Up Now @ Somerset House (12 Jun-15 Sept)

This summer, Somerset House celebrates the impact of 50 years of Black creativity on Britain and beyond with a landmark exhibition showcasing art, film, photography, music, literature, design and fashion. Approximately 100 artists are represented, 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.

 

Curated by acclaimed artist Zak Ove, Get Up, Stand Up Now begins with the work of his father, Trinidadian Horace Ove, creator of the first feature film by a Black British director, and his pioneering peers who were part of what is now known as the Windrush generation, such as Armet Francis, Charlie Phillips and Vanley Burke.

 

One of the show’s opening works includes award-winning filmmaker Steve McQueen’s poignant Remember Me, his first work about the violent and premature death of a young Grenadian man.

 

Michael X, who once claimed to be “the most famous Black man in Britain” as the self-styled leader of the British Black Power movement in an unseen shot by Horace Ove.

 

Featured also is a photograph of Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver and is wife taken by Gordon Parks. To the uninitiated Parks is the first African-American to produce and direct major motion pictures, including the original Shaft film.

 

Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson’s intricate tapestries compile images of murder victims in the crime scene, uploaded onto social media from around the world. The works are highly embellished with beads, glitter, flowers, fringing, etc. seducing viewers into witnessing the under-reported brutality experienced by those of lower socioeconomic standings, often from Black communities.

 

Music plays an important part in Get Up, Stand Up Now, exploring the the immense influence of Black artists on many genres of music. 

 

The stratospheric DJ Jillionaire, one-third of supergroup Major Lazer, has created a musical bridge between the generations by combining the beats of calypso and soca, straight from the streets where he grew up in Trinidad, to the sounds of Afrofuturism.

 

A host of musicians have also selected objects to go on display. Each object is accompanied by a playlist curated by the musician. Contributors include reggae maestro Dennis Bovell, Sons of Kemet’s Shabaka Hutchings – who has given the clarinet gifted to him by legendary jazz musician Courtney Pine.

 

Somerset House Studios resident Jenn Nkiru – one of Jay Z’s and Beyonce’s collaborators on APESH*T – showcases her trailblazing films, made with the likes of Neneh Cherry and Kamasi Washington.

 

Film clips include exclusive footage from a reggae festival held at Wembley Stadium in 1970 and King Carnival which charts the history of the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.

 

Artistic installations include Faisal Abdu’Allah, who brings his gold-plated The Barber’s Chair to the show, recognising the barber’s salon as an indistinguishable site of communal exchange and comradery.

 

David Hammons also draws inspiration from African hair in his Hair Relaxer. The title refers to the painful practice of ‘relaxing’ or straightening African hair.

 

Yet the sculptural installation shows a long head of hair, unstraightened and retaining its natural kinkiness, lying at ease on an old-fashioned chaise lounge, often used in the representation of female beauty in European art.

 

Film visitors will have the opportunity to watch feature-length screenings of Horace Ova’s seminal films Pressure and Baldwin’s Nigger, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The film documents a conversation he had with comedian Dick Gregory.

 

Pressure follows the fictional story of a British-born son of of first-generation Trinidadian family finding himself adrift between two cultures.

 

Windrush anniversary weekend Saturday 22 to Sunday 23 June, 10am-8pm, marks the national Windrush Day and celebrate the cultural contribution of the Windrush generation and their descendants.

 

Get Up Stand Up Now runs from 12 Jun – 15 Sep 2019,  £12.50 / £9.50 concessions, Under 12s free. For full details visit https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/whats-on/get-up-stand-up-now