FIRSTSITE COLCHESTER TO HOST A CELEBRATION OF AFRICAN AND CARIBBEAN HISTORY AND CULTURE

A report from Essex TV.

Covid-19 was not going to stop Firstsite holding its Super Black Festival, originally planned to take place in the Colchester Gallery back in March. Now, thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Festival celebrating black African and Caribbean history and culture has moved online, where it can be enjoyed by everyone.

The Festival is inspired by Super Black, the first in Firstsite’s series of National Partners Programme exhibitions with Arts Council Collection (October 2019 – January 2020), which was an exploration of the complex questions of identity and the experiences of black people living in Britain today. Co-curated by people from Essex’s black community, the exhibition presented artworks from the Arts Council Collection, alongside new work by Southend-based artist, Elsa James.

The title of the exhibition – Super Black – came about after a conversation between Elsa James and her daughter, where her daughter had revealed a L ondon-based cousin had told her she was not “black enough” simply because they live in Essex. This prompted the group to consider questions such as ‘how do other people define us?’, and ‘how do we define ourselves?’.

The Super Black Festival will consist of new films and discussions being released every Wednesday during autumn 2020 on the Firstsite website and their You Tube channel.

First up is a three-part exploration of the ingredients and dishes that are at the heart of Caribbean cuisine – led by Colchester resident and food enthusiast Yasmin Carr. She will also feature in a later film – In the kitchen with Simone and Yasmin – along with Simone McLean of the Colchester-based S&S Caribbean Café, in which the pair will cook traditional Jamaican dishes, talking through the ingredients and the cooking methods for making curried chicken and vegetable stew.
More films and podcasts will be released weekly throughout November. These will be made by some of the community curators from the exhibition, including Lawrence Walker (Chair of Black History Month Colchester) and artist Elsa James.

Artist, Vanley Burke – often described as the ‘Godfather of Black British Photography – whose work, along with objects from his home, were exhibited as part of the exhibition will also feature. His iconic images have captured the evolving cultural landscape and social change in the UK over the past four decades. He is also an avid collector of material that provides invaluable insights into Britain’s African and Caribbean communities. He will feature in the festival with a film discussing the objects from his vast archive revealing their significance to Britain’s Caribbean communities.

Firstsite Director, Sally Shaw MBE says: “It is really important for us to celebrate the many communities and cultures in Colchester. Our hugely popular exhibition Super Black did exactly that and we’re delighted that thanks to National Lottery Heritage Fund support we are able to continue exploring the themes examined in the exhibition through this festival. Although we aren’t able to hold the festival in our building, by moving it online it means we are able to share it with people all over the world!”

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