Black History Month: What to see

Published 10 October 2019

October is Black History Month in the UK. We’ve rounded up some places to go and exhibitions to see with your Student Art Pass.

While the US and Canada celebrate Black History Month in February, the UK’s annual celebration takes place in October.

Many museums and galleries put on special events during this time, and in addition to our selection of exhibitions to see below we’ve spotted programmes of talks at the Museum of London and across Liverpool museums. Get involved!

Below are some great exhibitions to see and venues to visit during Black History Month. All are free to visit, and don’t forget there are some great shop discounts at some of these venues with your Student Art Pass.

Donald Rodney, In the house of my Father, 1997, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the Estate of Donald G Rodney

1. Super Black

Firstsite, Colchester
11 October 2019 – 12 January 2020
Free to all

This exhibition asks the question: ‘What does it mean to be black in England today?’ Led by people from Essex, the exhibition includes works of art from the Arts Council Collection alongside new work by Southend-based artist Elsa James. It also includes objects from the Vanley Burke Archive, a collection of photographic and documentary material maintained by ‘the Godfather of Black British Photography’, Vanley Burke.

Courtesy of Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art - mima

2. Why Are We Here?

Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art
Until 29 March 2020
20% off in shop with Student Art Pass

Black History Month is a good time to visit Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, where the museum has been working with research group Black Artists & Modernism to audit the collection for all contributions by artists of African, Asian and Middle East and North Africa region descent in the UK in the 20th and 21st centuries. MIMA’s year-long display ‘Why Are We Here? With Black Artists & Modernism’ is structured around universal questions such as ‘Who am I?', 'Where am I?' and 'Why am I here?’, explored through the perspective of a key work in the collection by Sonia Boyce, She Ain’t Holdin’ Them Up, She’s Holdin’ On: Some English Rose (1986).

John Akomfrah, Peripeteia, 2012 (still) © Smoking Dogs Films / Courtesy Lisson Gallery

3. John Akomfrah: Ballasts of Memory

BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
Until 27 October 2019
10% off in shop with Student Art Pass

John Akomfrah’s powerful moving-image work reflects on the culture of the black diaspora in the UK and around the world. Having initially come to prominence as part of the Black Audio Film Collective in the 1980s and 90s, Akomfrah makes large-scale, multi-screen video installations which offer an immersive, cinematic experience. As well as existing works, this exhibition includes the European premiere of Precarity, which tells the story of African American cornetist Charles ‘Buddy’ Bolden, a key figure in the development of jazz music. Also on show is Akomfrah’s 2012 work The Unfinished Conversation, a portrait of the Jamaican-born cultural theorist Stuart Hall.

Kara Walker, Fons Americanus, installation view at Tate Modern, © Ben Fisher

4. Kara Walker: Fons Americanus

Tate Modern, London
Until 5 April 2020
Free to all

American artist Kara Walker is the latest to take on the annual commission for Tate Modern’s vast Turbine Hall, installing a huge fountain that references the interconnected histories of Africa, America and Europe in the transatlantic slave trade. In what can be seen as a critique of the kind of statues that celebrate the British empire’s colonial past, Walker’s Fons Americanus instead nods to the ambitions, fates and tragedies of people from these three continents, including figures such as the Haitian revolution leader Toussaint L’Ouverture and the Jamaican activist Marcus Garvey. Bringing together fact and fiction, horror and humour, Walker prompts us to think about how we remember history in our public monuments.

Don't forget: this installation is free, but if you fancy seeing something else while you're at Tate Modern, remember you can get 50% off exhibitions with your Student Art Pass.

Header image: Why Are We Here? at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art. Courtesy MIMA

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