Creative Conversations: Black Women Artists Making & Doing Symposium, was held at the University of Central Lancashire, 16-17 January 2020. The Symposium was organised in celebration of the many achievements of Prof. Lubaina Himid, CBE, RA.
In January, a lifetime ago it seems, I visited the University of Central Lancashire to attend a symposium dedicated to Black women’s creativity organized by the university’s Institute of Black Atlantic Research. Titled Creative Conversations: Black women artists making doing, the event was inspired by Professor Lubaina Himid, not only as an acclaimed academic, but as an internationally recognized artist, mentor and activist archivist. The conference began with Professor Himid taking her place at the lectern with a stack of well-read books, and from there initiating a rich and varied conversation on creativity, influences, phases of activity, reflection and resistance. For me she launched the conference in a way that made the rest of the event feel like a once-in-lifetime conversation. The photographer Ingrid Pollard, instead of visual work, recreated her creative world through a playlist of spoken word and music, ranging from Kathryn Tickell’s Northumberland Voices to Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Gertrude Stein, Shakespeare, Ust Folk music and Nona Hendryx. Contributors to the first day’s proceedings were an intergenerational pantheon of black cultural practitioners and academics working in the UK including Marlene Smith, Christine Eyene, Jade Montserrat and Evan Ifekoya ending with an evening event featuring a conversation between Lubaina Himid and Jackie Kay, led by Zoe Whitley.
The second day featured presentations by academics and researchers including Zoe Whitley, Ella S. Mills, Anna Arabindan-Kesson, Alan Rice, Griselda Pollock, Catherine Grant and to end the day with an extraordinarily moving presentation that summed up the event’s resonance with the audience, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski.
Before returning to London, we managed a quick visit to the Making Histories Visible archive based on a collection project instigated by Lubaina Himid who gave a tour. I was thrilled to see original artwork by Maud Sulter in the study space.
What is additionally inspiring is how the archive is linked to the printmaking workshop as part of the Centre for Contemporary Art at UCLAN providing the means to support practice inspired by the archive.
New books brought back for the Women’s Art Library (WAL) in Special Collections include three publications on the work of Lubaina Himid including the newly launched Inside the Invisible, an anthology Memorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid. Also featured in this photo is the excellent zine ROOT-ed produced by Liverpool-based Amber Akaunu and Fauziya Johnson. I was fortunate to also pick up a copy of work by Jade Montserrat commissioned for Art on the Underground. As part of her practice of taking provocative intimate messages into public spaces, Montserrat explained that the leaflet contained an appeal related to her search for her father. The leaflets distributed throughout the London Underground. https://www.thefourdrinier.com/art-on-the-underground
Video recordings of presentations are now accessible online if you visit the Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR) website at https://ibaruclan.com/ using Internet Explorer or Google Chrome.
Written by Althea Greenan, The Women’s Art Library, Curator