On my radar: Sonia Boyce’s cultural highlights

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The British artist on a Dominican cinematic gem, tapas in Tooting and an experimental musician with a hint of Kate Bush

A report by Kathryn Bromwich for London’s Guardian.

Born in London in 1962, Sonia Boyce is a British Afro-Caribbean artist whose work includes collage, mixed-media, photography, installations and video. She studied at Stourbridge College and had a solo show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1988. Since 1990 she has worked extensively with other artists. She is a professor at Middlesex University and University of the Arts London, and appears in BBC Four’s Whoever Heard of a Black Artist? Britain’s Hidden Art History, which aired last week and is now available on BBC iPlayer.

1. Film
Cocote

Vicente Santos as Alberto in Cocote
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 ‘Beautifully made’: Vicente Santos as Alberto in Nelson Carlo de Los Santas Arias’s Cocote. 

This is a beautifully made, very intense story set in the Dominican Republic about a gardener who works for a wealthy family in the city. He finds out that his father has been killed so he goes back to his home village. It has a really interesting contrast between the metropolis and the small village scenario. The village is shot very close up and very lovingly, full of its texture and daily noise. And he’s caught between different lifestyles, not doing what’s expected of him. It’s not an easy narrative – there’s a lot of stuff around spirituality and mysticism.

2. Art
Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera’s Plusvalía
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 ‘Her style is quite confrontational’: Tania Bruguera’s Plusvalía.

Tania is an artist who lives in the US. She often speaks about power relationships in her work, which is usually multimedia and always has some very interesting social commentary. Her style is quite confrontational, and you never really know what to expect: a couple of years ago she rode into the gallery on a horse. Often, in discussion about her practice, she invites lots of people to come in and be involved. Later this year she has the Hyundai commission at Tate Modern, which I’m really looking forward to. I’m also really looking forward to Lubaina Himid in conversation with Maria Balshaw at Tate Britain – I think that’s going to be great.

3. Music
Elaine Mitchener

Elaine Mitchener
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 ‘Extraordinary vocal range’: Elaine Mitchener.

She’s a very versatile musician who moves between jazz and very experimental sounds. Her vocal range is extraordinary – she has a really clear, youthful, beautiful voice. She’s a powerhouse of a performer: I’ve seen her live in concert as well as doing solo performances in galleries, and she moves seamlessly between different kinds of spaces. She’s done things with Goldie, for instance, where she’s sampled in. I would say she comes out of the tradition of Kate Bush really, that side of things. Definitely someone to look out for.

4. Restaurant
Rick’s, Tooting

Rick’s restaurant in Tooting

Whenever my partner and I get a chance to have a date night we’ll often go here. It’s very small, but intimate and with a lovely atmosphere. The owner [Rick Gibbs] set it up maybe 15 years ago and it’s a bit of a gem in Tooting. It’s a modern European style, often French or Spanish-influenced. The food is always lovely, with good sauces, and there’s a great selection. My partner likes all the meaty dishes, but they also do a great range of vegetarian dishes.

The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara

5. Book
The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambara

This is a tense, nonlinear book set in a fictionalised town in the southern states of America. It’s about faith healers who are trying to kind of rescue the town but particularly rescue one of the residents. It’s a book I read in the 1980s, when it first came out, and recently I’ve gone back to it. I very rarely read fiction – most of what I read is about art or theory. So I’ve got back into this book and its murky world, which is almost science fiction but not. Toni Cade Bambara was part of that generation of writers like Toni Morrison.

6. Building
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.
 ‘Beautifully done’: Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. 

They did a big renovation project that opened three years ago and I’ve only this year had a chance to go and see. I’d heard so many wonderful things about it. It’s a 19th-century building in a park in Manchester, but its interior is very mid-20th century. And then the new extension: there’s a lot of glass, a lot of light coming in. I think it’s almost doubled in size. It’s really beautifully done. They have great shows on, but it’s well worth going to just sit and have a cup of tea in the cafe.

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