Black History Month: What to see

Published 7 October 2021

We’ve rounded up some of the best exhibitions to see with a Student or National Art Pass for Black History Month this October.

A nationwide celebration and appreciation of black culture, Black History Month recognises the contributions of Black British people to arts, culture and society, and celebrates black history.

Many museums and galleries put on special events during this time, and in addition to our selection of exhibitions to see below, we’d also recommend exploring what your favourite places have on offer. National Museums Liverpool have a dedicated online portal for Black History Month where you can browse events including talks, displays, film screenings and children’s activities, and at the Museum of London you can access articles, videos and photography telling the stories of Black Londoners from the collection online.

The exhibitions featured below explore varied areas of black experience and culture, from women’s identity and representation to West African mythology, spanning music, costume, sculpture, painting and mixed-media art.

This is just a snippet of what’s on offer this October – visit Black History Month online for more to see, do and explore.

Dance Can't Nice: Exploring London's Black Music Spaces

Horniman Museum and Gardens, London
Until 24 October 2021
Free to all

In the early 2000s, a controversial risk assessment form requested from nightclub and music venue promoters made it increasingly difficult to stage Black music events in the public realm, resulting in many genres of music moving into private spaces. Here they continued to thrive and this exhibition explores the bedrooms, living rooms and community spaces that helped them grow. A wide range of music from jazz, soul and gospel to garage, grime and bashment is showcased here, along with new works by contemporary artists and interactive video exhibits.

Dance Can't Nice: Exploring London's Black music spaces at the Horniman Museum and Gardens. Courtesy the Horniman Museum and Gardens

Power of Stories

Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich
Until 24 October 2021
Free to all

The film Black Panther reached viral levels of fame around the world when it was released by Marvel Studios in 2018 and marked a major step forward for superhero film franchises in its celebration of black culture. Three of the iconic costumes featured in the film are on display here, plus comic books, cartoons and historic objects that explore the power of stories. See the outfits worn by the characters T’Challa, Shuri and Okoye, and explore how their thought-provoking narratives caused a cultural phenomenon.

Power of Stories at Christchurch Mansion. Photo: Megan Wilson

Kedisha Coakley

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
Until 31 October 2021
Free entry with a National Art Pass

Rising sculpture star Kedisha Coakley is particularly interested in challenging western depictions of black culture, identity and representation. She creates a space where objects and reimagined symbols can be investigated in relation to race, history and culture. Braided hair features prominently in her large bronze sculptures as she investigates perceptions of African Caribbean hair. A large public sculpture by Coakley will also be on display in the West Midlands later this year – where the artist takes inspiration from African art and the Kota tribe of Gabon.

Kedisha Coakley, Ritual Series, 2019-20, © The artist. Courtesy of Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Rita Keegan: Somewhere Between There and Here

South London Gallery
Until 28 November 2021
Free to all

Rita Keegan was hugely influential in the Black Arts Movement of the 1980s, creating and maintaining an extensive archive of newsletters, leaflets and exhibition literature from the Black British arts scene that she continues to use as inspiration for new works. Her radical approach to using materials and her exploration of Black identity merge in digital animation, textiles, painting and copy art combined with experimental media such as scents and smells. Her work is very personal to her own experience and she uses countless images from her childhood, plus powerful self-portraits.

Rita Keegan, Untitled, 1986, © Rita Keegan

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones: Astral Reflections

Charleston, Lewes
Until 13 March 2022
50% off with a National Art Pass

Three works by painter and sculptor Ben Enwonwu (1917-94) feature prominently in this exhibition – the artist had a huge influence on vivid painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, who celebrates his first UK solo show at the creative hub of Charleston. Adeniyi-Jones takes his inspiration from West African mythology, painting colourful semi-abstract works that seek to present the moving body and explore Black experience. His own Yoruban heritage has been a major influence on the paintings featured in the exhibition, and Charleston draws parallels between his work, Enwonwu’s, and avant-garde painter Duncan Grant.

Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, Three Figures Beaming in Blue, 2021. Copyright Tunji Adeniyi-Jones; courtesy White Cube

For more information on events and activities marking Black History Month visit blackhistorymonth.org.uk/listings

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