gal-dem's picks: Unmissable exhibitions to see this Black History Month

Necklace, ‘Salt of the Earth’ collection, Ami Doshi Shah, Kenya, 2019. Africa Fashion at V&A 2 July 2022 - 16 April 2023

From archival films to activists reimagined, here's gal-dem magazine's nationwide guide for art, film and fashion-related shows to indulge in this October and beyond.

Happy Black History Month to all who celebrate. While it is a fact that Black people are important every month of the year, during October in the UK we take special care to consider the works and contributions of Black people to this country’s culture. Several institutions around the UK have exhibits that will focus on the bold, thought-provoking vision of artists from these communities.

In 2019, the government published research into how different ethnicities in England engaged with the arts, like performing in a play, pursuing photography, or going to see an exhibition. It found that Black people were just over 10% less likely to immerse themselves in the creative world compared to their white counterparts. So, for this Black History Month, as part of our See Us In Art project with National Art Pass, to make these spaces more accessible we have handpicked an array of things to see that show more of our own experiences and perspectives within the art.

The National Art Pass, Art Fund’s membership, is all about opening the doors to discovering something new and connecting you with museums and galleries by giving members free or reduced-price entry, plus 50% off major exhibitions. The membership also helps Art Fund to support these brilliant spaces, so that they can share more art with everyone.

From fashion-forward blockbuster shows, to artistic explorations of stories, both forgotten and imaginary, these offerings are thought-provoking, beautiful, and can’t be missed.

Models holding hands, Lagos, Nigeria, 2019 by Stephen Tayo. Africa Fashion at V&A 2 July 2022 - 16 April 2023

Curated by Dr Christine Checinska, this exhibition uses items of clothing, photography, music and more to tell the story of Africa as a continent with style. Including insights from 45 designers from over 20 countries, the blockbuster display is the UK’s biggest exploration of the topic in a cultural arts space, featuring over 250 objects. It celebrates the ingenuity of designers like Thebe Magugu, a Johannesburg brand known for beautifully crafted sustainable looks with images and motifs related to African ancestry that was the first African designer to receive the LVMH prize. Alongside the exhibition, which has been on since the summer, there are also workshops and events, for example Checinska will be in conversation with Yomi Sode for a special First Five event on 21 October. National Art Pass gets you 50% off the show and the workshops are free so you can make a day of it.

‘Marina’ printed cotton, designed by Althea McNish for Liberty, 1957. Credit: William Morris Gallery. Althea McNish: Colour is Mine at The Whitworth 21 October 2022 – 23 April 2023

Bursting colourful contrasts, intricate lines, and tropical flora-inspired motifs – there’s such joy to the work of Althea McNish. Manchester is a city that appreciates fashion, and this retrospective exhibition, which honours the first Caribbean designer to attract worldwide acclaim, goes back into the vaults to look at a revered chapter of the industry’s history. Digging through her personal archives, the show looks at the influence McNish’s mid-century designs had as the former cartographer and illustrator injected bursts of colour into the textile industry after the Second World War, a transformative time for Britain.

McNish died at the grand old age of 95 in 2020 and so this travelling exhibition is a crucial vehicle for keeping her memory alive and contextualising her work for a modern audience. It will be on until April 2023 and is free to view but the National Art Pass gets you a discount in the shop off some arty trinkets for you to take home.

A National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK as well as 50% off major exhibitions.

About the author
Kemi Alemoru at gal-dem magazine
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The more you see, the more we do.

The National Art Pass lets you enjoy free entry to hundreds of museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, while raising money to support them.

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