It’s been a huge week. Even in a year of huge weeks. The tragic killing of George Floyd, and the subsequent global response, has doubtless provoked feelings in all of us. Feelings of anger and frustration, and a want to see and facilitate change.
In this week’s Culture Picks our expert programmers have curated arts moments and pieces that amplify the work of black artists or which captivate the feeling, or reflect on the messaging or the origin of the current protests.
chosen by Ralph Rugoff, Haywad Gallery Director
‘Just over a year ago, Hayward Gallery was presenting Kader Attia's Museum of Emotion exhibition, which included his powerful video examining racist police brutality. Titled The Body’s Legacies, Pt. 2: The Postcolonial Body, 2018, it skilfully weaves together personal accounts and sociological reflections on the 2017 case of Theo Luhaka, a young French-Congolese man who suffered appalling injuries after he was attacked by four members of the French police – an incident which sparked two nights of protests. Attia’s interviewees – among them a journalist and an academic – discuss the ways in which the descendants of people from former colonies are treated, in Attia’s words, as ‘both object and victim’. In the light of recent events Attia's thought-provoking video is more relevant than ever.’
chosen by Ruth Hardie, Interim Head of Public Programming
‘Over the past few days I found myself returning to this incredible performance of the song ‘Black’ by Dave at the Brit Awards in 2020. This powerful performance describes what racism looks like in modern day Britain, quoting black struggle and pain alongside black beauty and achievement. The line ‘the least racist is still racist’ feels particularly important whilst we examine ourselves and our society right now.
‘Dave's album Psychodrama debuted at number one in the UK Album chart going on to win the Mercury Prize and the Brit Award Album of the Year.’
chosen by Gillian Moore, Director of Music
‘British composer Philip Herbert wrote this beautiful Elegy for Stephen Lawrence, the black teenager murdered by racists in South London in 1993. Chineke!, Southbank Centre's Associate Orchestra, and the first majority BAME professional orchestra in Europe, gave the premiere at their inaugural concert in September 2015 in our Queen Elizabeth Hall. Baroness Doreen Lawrence, Stephen's mother, was in the audience.’
chosen by Ted Hodgkinson, Head of Literature and Spoken Word
‘In the wake of recent events, I've been listening again to this illuminating and lively conversation between Akala and David Olusoga chaired by June Sarpong – which we were honoured to host at the Southbank Centre – on how the legacies of empire perpetuate racism today.’
from The National Poetry Library
Last month should’ve seen the launch of Songs We Learn from Trees, the first ever anthology of Ethiopian Amharic poetry in English, celebrated at The National Poetry Library. Written by ten much-loved 20th-century poets, and 30 of the most exciting contemporary poets working inside and outside Ethiopia, the poems in the anthology ask what it means to be Ethiopian today; part of a young fast-growing economy, heirs to the one African state which was never colonised, but beset by deep political, ethnic and moral problems.
Though the current pandemic deprived us of the chance to welcome Ethiopian poets Bedilu Wakjira, Misrak Terefe, Hama Tuma and Alemtsehay Wodajo, and editors/translators Alemu Tebeje and Chris Beckett, in person, Songs We Learn from Trees is now set for a virtual launch this week. From Monday 8 June, one video per day will be released on Carcanet Press’ YouTube channel, featuring readings from the book and discussions on the poetry. Look out for the #songfromtrees hashtag on social media.
chosen by Glen Wilson, Senior Content Editor, Digital
‘In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, and the protests that have followed, many white people – myself included – will be asking themselves how they can do more; how they can offer greater support to Black Lives Matter and people of colour, beyond sharing a hashtag or a black screen. This social media post, from Mireille C Harper, writer and assistant editor for Square Peg Books, provides an incredibly helpful and considered starting point.
‘Mireille herself explained on Instagram, ‘I shared this after I felt the conversations online were screaming into an echo chamber. I wanted to provide those who wanted to support and be an ally with practical tips to move forward and make a change in our society.’ But as Mireille goes on to reiterate, to help make that change takes personal investment in reading, listening and learning; ‘This took emotional labour and POC, especially black people are not here to teach you everything’.’
The show must go on(line)
Sadly, for everyone’s safety, our venues are currently closed. But you can still get your Southbank Centre fix online. We will continue to share inspiring and thought-provoking arts stories through our website and social channels.
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