Friends and loved ones,
I regret to inform you that the picture above is not of a window dresser preparing a mannequin for a summer sale (although in some respects, it could be argued otherwise). The picture above is of the non-artist, Brett Bailey curating his latest work, Exhibit B – The Human Zoo. This four day sham of a show, “…critiques the ‘human zoos’ and ethnographic displays that showed Africans as objects of scientific curiosity through the 19th and early 20th centuries. Translated here into twelve tableaux, each features motionless performers placed in settings drawn from real life. Collectively they confront colonial atrocities committed in Africa, European notions of racial supremacy and the plight of immigrants today.” barbican.org.uk.
Contrary to the condescending message the Barbican has tried to sell myself and others, this exhibition does not contribute to the awareness of the objectification and exploitation of black people. Rather, this exhibition is a live insult – an exploitation of a community that is being forced into being reminded of ‘their place in the world’. I’ve yet to see or hear of any people of colour who approve of this. I’ve only seen and heard white people explain to me why there is a justification for putting black people in cages…again. Shame on Brett Bailey – the non-artist who thinks he is justified in his actions, and shame on the Barbican for commissioning such a barbaric, insulting and insane exhibition! If the Barbican were really concerned about black history, they’d take more time to look at ‘blackness through the ages’ – the contributions made to the world for millennia… the richness and depth of African, Caribbean and Aboriginal culture, storytelling, art, philosophy and science, etc, and not just show one era of history that exhibits people (not statues or paintings, but real people…with thoughts and feelings) as helpless creatures… If Brett Bailey and the Barbican are so keen on being empathetic, why don’t they put themselves in these cages and have a taste of a life of a slave? And if they were concerned about the state of black people in this current zeitgeist, they could consider raising awareness of the atrocities currently taking place in Australia? They could open up a dialogue about the political and economical issues taking place in the Caribbean and Africa as a result of the transatlantic-slave-trade-wounds, etc, that are yet to be healed? I must admit, initially, when my friend posted the petition on FB, I held back the urge to splurge disgust and anguish. I played a little devil’s advocate and asked my friends what they thought the problem ‘really’ was? Whether they were upset because they didn’t want to feel obligated to remember a bleak part of history (which we should never forget), or whether it was something more. Soon after asking questions and sharing thoughts, I delved a little deeper and found myself becoming more and more insulted, and validated in my initial response. More articles can be read that articulate my sentiments exactly (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/12/exhibit-b-human-zoo-boycott-exhibition-racial-abuse, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-29022866, http://afri-culture.com/london-woman-launches-petition-to-prevent-racist-exhibition-exhibit-b-the-human-zoo-from-showing-at-the-barbican/, http://www.voice-online.co.uk/article/boycott-barbican-over-black-people-cages-exhibition and many more). And if your time, resources or even interests prohibit you from investigating this issue at length, you could simply view it like this: Black people have said no to wanting to see other black people in cages, whilst a white artist and a white Barbican spokesperson have stood by the notion to have the human zoo performed… Frankly, I’m shocked at even having to sign such a petition at this day and age! …But then again…should I be shocked given that there is nothing new under the sun? How heartbreaking 😦 Feel free to sign the petition (https://www.change.org/p/withdraw-the-racist-exhibition-exhibition-b-the-human-zoo) to have the exhibition pulled, and have progress made.