As part of the shape of things programme, acclaimed UK Textiles artist Maggie Scott exhibited ‘Negotiations, Black in a White Majority Culture‘ which explores the tensions and contradictions of Black British identity. The private viewing took place at the New Walk Museum & Art in Leicester on Friday 13th April 2012.
Maggie Scott is well-known for her brilliantly crafted felt textiles which she utilises skilfully and impressively in her latest work to present the creative potential of the fabric and the laborious process of felting. Using Art as a medium between craftsmanship and storytelling, she is able to narrate the trials and tribulations she endured in life as a person of colour living in Britain in a way that captivates and connects with a wider audience.
In her own words:
The title Negotiations is significant. Clearly everybody, regardless of race, ethnicity, class or gender has had, at some time in their lives, to adjust, compromise and effectively become socialised into the prevailing dominant culture. However, the extent to which our group is required to negotiate, alter and transform itself is contingent on the power relationship we have been assigned within the culture.’
Negotiations is an autobiographical piece based upon the ideas of race, ethnicity, identity and trying to find a place in a society that marginalises you and constantly having to negotiate one’s right to belong.
We are so often made to feel we’re not okay. We internalise this misinformation…
Maggie Scott opens up a dialogue about ‘being black in a white majority culture’; an attempt at dealing with internalised racism (pervasive racist attitudes within ethnic groups). She looks back at her childhood and key historical events in order to identify the sources of oppression in a time when racial tensions were rife in Britain.
The exhibition commences with an image of the wedding day of an inter-racial couple (her mother and step-father) in the 1960′s juxtaposed with a picture of the ‘Keep Britain White’ rally taking place simultaneously in Trafalgar Square. She wanted to contrast the two events; the hopes and aspirations of newlyweds against the opinions of a political party , The National Labour Party, campaigning to oppose non-white immigration while promoting white nationalism.
Through ‘The End series’, Scott explores mental health by utilising a photograph of her mother who suffered from depression, taken a month before her death, which she illustrates in a jigsaw format. As the series progresses, in order to reflect her deterioration, the jigsaw peels away. Scott has done a commendable job at putting issues which affect the black community living in Britain at the forefront of her work. It resonates perfectly with its audience who more often than not, are misrepresented and sidelined.
‘Step Out Of The Shadows’ is a bold installation of skin lightning cosmetic products marketed to appeal to consumers who have dark skin pigmentations. Products with names such as ‘Fair & White’ , ‘Clair Action’ or ‘Dermo White’ are familiar among people of coulour. Scott affirms that “it is very easy to be seduced into thinking that if we can be whiter we will be ‘better”.
A problematic issue within many ethnic minority communities in Britain (which I touched upon here). In the open interview with journalist and writer Bim Adewunmi, she discusses this extensively as well as the legacy of slavery in cementing the prejudices we see internalised by black people today. Skin lightning is “heavily re-enforced by the racism that still permeates society. It so often favours a lighter skin over a darker one”.
My favourite piece is the last part of the exhibition entitled Making History and not just because I am in it ….*coughs*… but rather because I love history and also because
Making History was my favourite academic History module it is an attempt of re-writing history in a way which celebrates the present and those who are working towards shaping tomorrow; shaping modern Black British history. A collage of individuals of African and Caribbean descent from all walks of life, negotiating and re-defining what it is to be Black in a White Majority Culture; the right way.
This exhibition is worth the travel and will continue to be held at the New Walk Museum & Art in Leicester until May 20th 2012.
A BIG THANK YOU to my friend Camise Oldfield, graphic artist for film and television, for inviting me. She also contributed to the exhibition by working on the AM-NU Step Out Of The Shadows installation. My appreciations also go out to Elaine Baldry for being so lovely and of course to the the artist herself; Maggie Scott, who has no idea who I am, yet utilised my photograph as part of many in the Making History installation.
For more information contact:
For Maggie Scott: Elaine Baldry,
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 07958 412206 / http://www.maggiescott.co.uk/
For The Shape Of Things: Ruth Hecht,
Email: email@example.com Tel: 07540 2218011 / http://theshapeofthings.org.uk/