The Woman Who Is Putting Caribbean History On Show


Birmingham community worker Annette Robinson is determined to show a different side to the region’s history through a major new exhibition, as Poppy Brady reports in this article for The Voice.

WHEN IT comes to setting up exhibitions Annette Robinson is rapidly becoming the ‘go to’ person who can pare down an overwhelming amount of material to produce a first-rate and memorable showcase.

Last summer Annette was the person who single-handedly staged the only large-scale exhibition to celebrate 50 years of Jamaican independence in the UK with a critically acclaimed exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

A team from the National Archives came up from London to see it and were so impressed they asked Annette to tackle another project called Caribbean Through A Lens, involving thousands of old photographs of a vanished West Indies dating back to the 1860s.

In six weeks she has sorted through the enormous files to choose around 50 outstanding old photographs which show the known and not so well known areas of the Caribbean, such as the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Windward and Leeward Islands.

“One thing I didn’t want to portray was that tired old image of Caribbean people looking worn down and poor in tin shacks and shanty towns,” explains Annette, who works full time as a social worker and is part of the community group called The Kingsway Project.

“I wanted to find the right balance, not just focussing on the negative side of the slave trade, which is all too often portrayed as the only part of Caribbean history. I thought people should see the many races who have helped to contribute to the Caribbean – that’s why I’ve included a Muslim procession and people from Eastern India as well as French, Spanish and Portuguese influences.”

The exhibition was put together with help from up and coming young designer Gavin Telfer. Annette said: “Every time I work on something like this I like to bring someone up with me who is talented. Gavin has done some fantastic work on this.”

Now she is passionate about making sure the Caribbean legacy continues to be passed on to future generations, who may no longer have direct connections to the homelands of their parents and grandparents.

“I intend to challenge diaspora organisations across the UK to make sure our children don’t forget their roots,” she says.

The Caribbean Through A Lens exhibition will be held at Handsworth Library, Soho Road, until Thursday March 14. There will be a community engagement session this afternoon (February 21st) between 1pm and 2pm at the library with stories and songs from the Caribbean. Free booklets are also available on the exhibition.

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