Inside the archive of iniva, the Stuart Hall-founded force for the arts

[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] Rianna Jade Parker (Dazed, Autumn 2020, November 13, 2020) writes about iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), the Stuart Hall-founded force for the arts.

Iniva—or, the Institute of International Visual Arts—is a London-based radical arts organisation that offers something no other established institution currently does in the UK: a critical and creative hub and programme that works predominantly to support and promote Black and Asian artists. It’s a bold mission anchored in iniva’s founder, the late cultural theorist Stuart Hall; the library named after him, the archives of which you can explore below, is housed in iniva’s own building. The Jamaican-British theorist and political activist changed Black British art and culture forever: now, generations of artists that iniva support are articulating new futures via his writings. Below, Rianna Jade Parker writes on Hall’s legacy, while 3 artists from iniva past and present (Rosa-Johan Uddoh, Sunil Gupta, and Jade Montserrat) create new work responding to ideas of “movement” – a theme that the insitution’s Artistic Director, Sepake Angiama, has been thinking about a lot during the events of 2020.

RIANNA JADE PARKER ON STUART HALL’S LEGACY

Stuart Hall’s Jamaica differs greatly from my own, as does his Black Britain. And yet I have relied on him heavily to understand and navigate both. What we do share is a visceral connection to the tropical island and the memories “that guarantee I shall be Jamaican all my life, no matter where I am living”. As the public intellectual writes in his 1995 essay “Negotiating Caribbean Identities” for the New Left Review, a title he co-founded: “The Caribbean is the first, the original and the purest diaspora. These days Blacks who have completed the triangular journey back to Britain sometimes speak of the emerging Black British diaspora, but I have to tell them that they and I are twice diasporised.”

As the global response to white supremacy continues, Britain’s ahistorical image of itself is being addressed in anti-racist reading lists that unsurprisingly reference a variety of Hall’s political writings for insight and contemplation of what he might bring to this moment if he were still alive. But less often discussed is Hall’s long-term and sustained engagement with Black and ethnic minority artists in Britain, especially those working in film and photography. Throughout his career and once retired, he devoted a sizable amount of his leisure time to the developing Black arts scene, both as a founding chair of Autograph, an organisation supporting Black British photographic practices, and of the Institute of International Visual Arts (iniva).

At iniva, Hall’s spirit continues to drive forward the mission of an important resource and support network for visual artists and writers. Today, you’ll find the institution housed in Pimlico; nestled within is the Stuart Hall Library, some of the discoveries of which you’ll find on these pages. From its inception, iniva has dedicated itself to supporting young artists and mediating between the state policymakers and funding bodies who (unevenly) distribute public monies for creative practices. Its creation in 1994 pronounced the emergence of first-generation and young migrant Black British artists who came of age in 80s Thatcherite Britain. Now, 26 years on, it’s still a vital institution supporting artists – especially those in the early stages of their career – whose practice speaks to the politics of difference. “We are the stories we tell ourselves – so, as Sylvia Wynter says, we need to come together to tell new stories and rewrite knowledge that means something to us collectively,” says Sepake Angiama, who has been director at the institute since early this year. “Iniva believes in emergence as a vital force for creation.”

Taken from the autumn 2020 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here.

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