Blog Archive

Monday, 15 September 2014

CAMPAIGN AGAINST THE BARBICAN'S RACIST HUMAN ZOO - I AM SOMEBODY -1 MILLION RISING

Protestors outside Guildhall






    Last week two significant protests took place in London, in opposition to the racist, offensive and horrific Human Zoo exhibition to be hosted by The Barbican. Probably for the first time ever, the City of London Corporation, owners of The Barbican, was lobbied by black community campaigners. Organisations and individuals, including BARAC UK demonstrated outside Guildhall as members of the Corporation entered to attend their regular Council meeting.  



Image by Zita Holbourne

As a result of the open letter that BARAC UK sent to the Chief Executive of the Corporation, a meeting was facilitated between campaigners and members of The Barbican Board and Management. At this meeting we informed The Barbican that we would be handing in the petition of over 20,000 signatures that Saturday and requested that a senior officer received it. This was acknowledged. 


Lobbying the City of London Corporation (with representatives of Unite the Union, BARAC UK & BEMA)



On Saturday 12th of September protesters marched to The Barbican for a rally outside before the planned petition hand in.  The organisations represented not only on the day but who have signed up to the campaign represent over a million in addition to the 20,000 plus who have signed the petition. Speeches and performers were accompanied by drummers. Children and adults carried banners with the words ' I am somebody' and 'I am not an object on them'. 

March to The Barbican


 Tafadwa ShakaRa Mbandaka  performed the opening libations, the proceedings were compered by Paul Lawrence. There were poetry performances by Akala, Zita Holbourne (Co-Chair BARAC UK) & Anthony Anaxagorou and speeches by  Sara Myers (Petition author),  Zita Holbourne, PCS & TUC Race Relations Committee, Donna Guthrie (Unite), Lee Jasper, Co-Chair BARAC UK, Kehinde Andrews, OBU, Austin Harney, CRAIC, Paul Richards, UpRise and Hilary Mohammed, Nation of Islam. People were drawn out of the Barbican and surrounding businesses by the presence and sound of the protest.

A video of the rally can be viewed here.


Lee Jasper, co-chair of BARAC speaks


 Disgracefully when it came to the point of handing in the petition, The Barbican failed to provide a senior representative to receive it, despite the discussions with them on Thursday about this and despite the fact that a senior Board member had been visible during the protest, viewing proceedings from a balcony.  Instead they sent as their representative, the Head of Security who acted with hostility. As a result, it was agreed that the petition would not be handed in that day and a subsequent event would be organised for the hand in.


Zita Holbourne, Co-Chair of BARAC performs poetry
Donna Guthrie, Unite member & BARAC Women's Officer


Brett Bailey's Human Zoo is neither art nor empowering. Yet this is what The Barbican have tried to tell us, that if we were to attend it, we would be empowered and educated.  Quite clearly those of us that have a lived experience of racism do not need educating about racism and we are certainly not going to feel empowered by a re-enactment of historic or current racism. Last week I wrote for The Voice Newspaper on this; Read here. 

image by Zita Holbourne


In fact, when we met with the  predominantly  white (just one black member) Barbican Board and Management and asked them how many of them had seen the exhibition, only one had, so it's laughable that they should try to 'educate' anti racist and black community organisations about racism through this horrendous exhibition.

The campaign continues and we will continue to call for the only positive solution to this horrific display of racism, masquerading as a creative artistic expression, a boycott on not just Exhibit B, which will be shown at The Vaults but on The Barbican itself.  Critics of our opposition have claimed that we are calling for censorship of art.  A boycott is not censorship.  The successful Boycott Campaign against apartheid in South Africa included artists, musicians and sports people amongst others.

 


Sign the petition here

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Brett Bailey 'Human Zoo' lies about our campaign.

This article was written in response to an article published in Africa's Mail & Guardian which you can read in full here.  BARAC UK Co Chair Zita Holbourne has also written on this issue here 
" I am Lee Jasper Co Chair of Black Activist Rising Against the Cuts ( BARAC UK) a anti racist, anti austerity campaign and a member of the coalition of groups that form the campaign. I write on behalf of BARACK UK not the campaign itself.
I read your article with some disappointment. In your opening sentence you describe the London based Boycott the Human Zoo Campaign as ' baying for the banning' of Brett Baileys Exhibit B. That is wholly inaccurate . The clue is in the title of the campaign and I would have thought that any decent professional journalist, worth their salt,, would have been aware of that.
Our views are available on line so there is no excuse for your complete failure to balance your article, with comments from the campaign here in London.
That Brett Bailey, then chooses to base this attack on our campaign, by knowingly and wrongly claiming, we are calling for his work to be 'banned'. This is simply untrue and there is no evidence to support that baseless smear. Mr Bailey should be aware that calling for a boycott of institutions and business is a long and cherished tradition of the struggle against racism.
I am also surprised that a white South African artist supposedly committed to the cause of challenging racism, should then describe serious black organisations, trade union groups , campaigning groups representing over a million people, in addition to the 20,000 plus people who signed our petition as engaged in 'mob hysteria'. It would seem that Baileys latent arrogance and white privilege, assumes he can make such baseless claims without consequence.
He reaches his disingenuous conclusion by relying, on this wholly false premises. He knows that his claim is completely untrue and your paper, should have known, that this was simply an attempt by this artist to falsely malign and smear a credible campaign.
Here in London, a city that is 40% non white, we have a strong and powerful tradition of black self organisation and radical anti racism. Bailey or the Barbican could have at any time spoken to a wide range of organisations, prior to putting on the show, in an effort to seek their views, on what is, by his own admission, deeply contested territory.
They choose not to do so and to add insult to injury, Brett Bailey and your paper, falsely and grievously maligns the campaign using the exactly the same tactics as the Apartheid regime employed to suppress and marginalise, radical African artists opposing apartheid.
Its clear to us that Brett Baileys arrogance and white privilege, renders his artwork redundant in terms of our struggle for race equality in the UK. His comments, to you reveals his mendacious and disingenuous approach to this issue. This simply reinforces our view that Baileys work not only fails to challenge racism, but in reality reinforces racist views,
This art work we believe to be racist in conceptualisation and presentation. According to performers in the exhibition, they have been laughed at by groups of visiting white people , and subjected to both races and sexist remarks reinforces our position.
That African performers in this exhibition, having issued a preprepared statement, then are outrageously banned from talking to both ourselves and the press, rather ironically demonstrates, the real reality of white power, control and oppression of even those Africans in this show."

Thursday, 4 September 2014

MOUNTING PRESSURE ON THE BARBICAN AS THE CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION RESPONDS

 MOUNTING PRESSURE ON THE BARBICAN AS THE CITY OF LONDON CORPORATION RESPONDS TO OUR OPEN LETTER

 




Pressure is mounting on The Barbican from a growing number of organisations and individuals outraged by the arts venue's decision to host the offensive Exhibit B, designed by white South African, Brett Bailey. Over 15,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Barbican to withdraw from hosting the exhibition. 

A coalition of organisations have come together to campaign against the exhibition together with the petition author, Sara Myers. This includes BARAC UK, OBV, BEMA, UpRise, Unite the Union, PCS union, NUS Black Students Campaign, OBU, Legali, DLA & YEMANJA & BEF. 

On 2nd September, as The Barbican had failed to respond to our second letter to them,  BARAC sent an open letter to the City of London Corporation, which owns The Barbican.

On 4 September we received the following response from The City Corporation Chief Executive:


Dear Ms Holbourne

Firstly, let me assure you that your concerns in relation to the presentation by the Barbican Centre of Exhibit B are taken seriously. The City Corporation, and in turn the Barbican Centre Board, recognise the strength of feeling in relation to Exhibit B. It tackles controversial and sensitive issues and has rightly initiated intense debate.  

There is no  mechanism for the public to directly address the Court of Common Council. Given the timing of the Court of Common Council meeting, and that the next meeting of the Barbican Centre Board takes place after Exhibit B, and the strength of feeling on this issue, we would be able to arrange a meeting between you and representatives from the Barbican Centre Board and management to discuss the issues raised by Exhibit B in advance of 23 September.  

Yours sincerely,
John Barradell 

 We have written back to Mr Barradell setting out the terms of any meeting to take place. 


 
If We Stand for Nothing, We Fall for Anything, by Zita Holbourne

We invite you to join us at two protests next week as follows: 

We plan to lobby  the City of London Corporation Court of Common Council taking place on Thursday 11 Sept at 1pm, assembling 12.15pm. The address is: Great Hall, Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5. Join the Facebook event for details and updates. 

On Saturday 13th of Sept we will be staging an event at The Barbican to hand in the petition, assembling at 1pm.  The address is: The Barbican Exhibition Centre, London, EC1Y0. Join the Facebook event for details and updates.

If UK arts institutions wish to explore the histories of black people, they need to understand and acknowledge that our story did not begin with enslavement, colonial rule, apartheid and segregation.  They need to understand that the atrocities that were inflicted on us are not us. They must acknowledge that the objectification of us during periods of history cannot be addressed by repeating this objectification and labelling it art. Contrary to The Barbican's claim that doing this is empowering, it is in fact about power and privilege. It devalues and undermines our worth in a degrading way. Our lives, histories, struggles and successes cannot be understood by the recreating of a human zoo. 

  As an artist and curator, I create and promote art that challenges racism but also promotes equality. I am the curator of the Roots, Culture, Identity Art Exhibition
which is currently on tour and showcases the art of young black artists.

From the collection 'Still Rising, Still Shining' by Zita Holbourne



 Here is an extract of the Press Release for the exhibition which will be hosted by the Public and Commercial Services later this month: 

 Zita Holbourne, curator, artist and an elected member of the TUC Race Relations Committee said; ‘Following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the TUC set up a Task Group to examine institutional racism and one of the agreed actions was to make the Marble Hall at Congress House available to showcase the talents of young Black people. I am delighted to be curating this exhibition and that the Race Relations Commmitee is giving an opportunity to young Black artists to share their talents with a wider audience. Young black people are impacted negatively and disproportionately on multiple grounds by austerity, both in the labour market and by cuts to arts funding. It’s important to nurture the extraordinary talent that exists in our communities, now more than ever.  Such talent and the important messages and ideas about the world we live communicated through art, need to be shared, understood and celebrated.’


Rise Up Against Racism, by Zita Holbourne

 
Brett Bailey's exhibition does nothing to address the institutional racism, amplified by austerity that black people face today in the UK or to celebrate our achievements throughout history or today. 



Zita Holbourne, Campaign Press Officer, 
National Co-Chair BARAC UK.  



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