Bringing African Faces to the Foreground

Posted by Speakeasy News > Friday 07 February 2020 > What's On

In an exhibition in Bordeaux, a British artist pulls African characters from the background of European paintings and puts them centre stage.
Lubaina Himid was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania but brought up in England. She was a leading figure of the Black British Art Movement in the 1980s and won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2017.
The installation  on show in Bordeaux consists of 100 life size cut-out figures of black slaves or servants who featured in paintings as far back as the 17th century. Having a black servant in a painting signalled the main subject’s wealth and status. As Lubaina Himid explains, "They often provided the entertainment just by looking different and were at their most useful as the greatest conspicuous display of wealth imaginable."
Luabina Himid with one of the cut-outs.
In 2004, Himid took the figures from the paintings and gave them back an existence of their own. They each have an invented name and story. But lest the bright colours and cheerful faces fool you, their stories take the form of invoices attached to their backs.

My name is Walukaga
They call me Sam
I used to chase wild boar
Now the dogs do it for me
And they have the meat

My name is Asiza
They call me Sally
I loved to work the clay
Now I sweep the yard
But I love the mud

Himid called the piece Naming the Money, as the black characters literally represented wealth. The installation takes extra meaning from the venue in Bordeaux: the CAPC is housed in a warehouse built in 1824 to store the coffee, sugar, cotton, rum and spices that were imported into the city from France's colonies.
This video gives a good sense of the installation:
Lubaina Himid: Naming the Money
CAPC Bordeaux
Till 23 February 2020