By Milan Perera, Arts Critic Columnist
What does Black History Month mean? Why is it necessary to mark it? These were my questions to Dr. Richard Stone, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Bristol. ‘Sometimes there is the tendency to center the discussion around the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the histories of suffering. And there is too much of a risk of reducing Black History to enslavement and resistance, and ignoring the great cultural achievements of a continent,’ he responded.
‘When discussing British history we talk about the Tudors, but we talk about many other periods as well. It should be the same with Black History. If we reduce the Black History to enslavement and oppression it would be a great disservice’.
Cultural events celebrating Black achievements in art, literature, music and cinema are scheduled to take place at various venues around Bristol in celebration of Black History Month, and some have already started. Here are our top picks.
The World Reimagined Globe Trail
The transformative power of art is never to be underestimated—it has the power to educate and elucidate. The World Reimagined trail is currently stretching across Bristol, starting at the Royal Fort Gardens near the Henrietta Lacks monument. The main objective of this momentous project is ‘to transform how we understand the Transatlantic Trade in Enslaved Africans and its impact on all of us’. The ten stop trail is designed to take between 90-120 minutes to complete, with each stop installed with a globe that has been decorated by a local artist. The Bristol trail began on 13th August and will conclude on the 31st October, the end of Black History Month.
bookhaus Black History Month in-haus conversations
Independent bookshop bookhaus prides itself as a centre of radicalism, an embodiment of Bristol’s entrenched activist culture. Two in-conversation style events featuring prominent authors are taking place on the 10th and the 17th October at bookhaus, near Wapping Wharf in central Bristol. Tickets are five pounds, which include a glass of wine or soft drink and two pounds off the book.
... Black England by Gretchen Gerzina on Monday 10th October
Black England explores the Georgian era in Black British History. The text was originally published in the early 1990s after the author visited a Bloomsbury bookshop in search of a book on Black British history, only to be told there were no Black people in England prior to 1945. The event is hosted by Dr Edson Burton.
... Unearthed by Claire Rainton on Monday 17th October
A powerful work of memoir and storytelling that will change the way we think about the natural world. Unearthed urges us to look to the world outside for the belonging and home we seek. It is a heartfelt call to reconsider our history, the way we think about nature and the complex relationships we all have with the land.
Photography and the representation of Black lives at M Shed on Saturday 15th October
This online workshop explores the role of photography in the documentation and exploration of Black cultural ideas, from history to the present day. Led by visual anthropologist, photographer and filmmaker Professor Shawn-Naphtali Sobers, the session also includes hands-on photography exercises and tasks.
John Akomfrah's Mimesis: African Soldier (2018) at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Not to be missed, Mimesis: African Soldier (2018) is the undiscussed story of the Commonwealth soldiers who volunteered to fight in World War I. Akomfrah blends archive imagery of African and Asian soldiers at work, digging trenches and fetching and carrying with original, newly filmed footage imagining the men as they leave their partners behind. From 1st October 2022 to 8th January 2023, the film can be viewed at 10.30am, 11.43am, 12.56pm, 2.09pm and 3.22pm.
Fabric Africa family fun at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery on Wednesday 26th October
African art is a kaleidoscope of vibrant colours and patterns. A free hour-long printmaking workshop with esteemed artist of Nigerian descent Flo Awolaja, who specialises in printmaking and textile design.
The Skeleton Key (2005) at the Cube Cinema on Saturday 29th October
When the horror movie trope of predominantly white, middle-class individuals trapped or haunted in sprawling mansions was at its height, The Skeleton Key put the Black Horror genre firmly on the map.
Nurse Caroline Ellis quits her job to take up a new nursing position looking after Ben Devereaux in his New Orleans former plantation mansion. She quickly begins to question the relationship between Ben and his wife Violet. What she discovers is stranger, more sinister, and more brilliant than she could ever imagine.
Screened at the Cube, an intimate theatre venue in Stokes Croft.
Afrometropolis 2.0: Shock & Wonder at the Trinity Centre on Sunday 23rd October
Playfully and collaboratively reimagining what it is to be Black with the aid of art, words, and activities inspired by Afrofuturism, including Afro Futurist City building and the decoration of a full-scale model of an Afronaut using paint, textiles and beads. Compose your own poem capturing how you perceive and capture blackness. Make sure to book your tickets for this free event online.
Afrika Eye Film Festival from 7th to 17th of November at various venues
The South West’s biggest celebration of African cinema and culture is returning for its 16th instalment with the theme 'Untold Stories'. The 11-day programme will feature African film, music, photography, dance and 'MORE THAN A NUMBER', a free-to-see exhibition of works by 12 photographers (opening on 7th November at the Trinity Centre, Easton). Extraordinary artists from across Africa and within the diaspora bring their insights, creative ideas and projects to illuminate and educate.
An Art and Activism event, commencing with a screening of documentary Les Fleurs De Bitume (2017) will be held at the University of Bristol’s Humanities Building on Tuesday 8th November, followed by a post-screening discussion chaired by Professor Siobhan Shilton, featuring director Caroline Péricard. Other featured events include a food, music and conversation event at the Coexist Community Kitchen on Thursday 10th November, and free live music in the Watershed cafe-bar on Friday 11th November.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo in concert at St. George’s on Thursday 13th October
The South African all-male a cappella group that sings in the distinctive and uplifting vocal styles of isicathamiya and mbube are bringing their magic to the iconic St. George’s, just off of Park Street. Founded in 1960, the choral ensemble have brought the mesmerising sounds of South Africa around the globe, and have collaborated with esteemed artists including Paul Simon.
Featured Image: Flickr / ian262
How will you be celebrating Black History Month 2022?