Here, there… Evenwhere: A personal history of 60 years of African and African diaspora Artists at Arnolfini
For six decades, Arnolfini has brought the works of many thousands of artists, from all over the world, to many millions of people here in Bristol. There are many different ways in which this history can be told, many different threads of development and influence, and many different individuals and communities who have made found in Arnolfini a home. One such individual is Melissa Chemam, and her story of Arnolfini’s past draws together the work of a number of artists who have shown here, who come from Africa, or who were born into various African diaspora communities around the world. Artists working in many different styles and media, working in response to a host of various cultural and political movements and moments are covered – from the Harlem Renaissance to the Bristol Bus Boycott, the UK’s joining of the EU to Brexit, a traditional commemoration of Edward Colston to the toppling of his statue. Weaving them together is Melissa’s own unique perspective of Bristol, how she came to live here after a long-term interest in the city’s art and music scenes, told from her vantage point as a journalist who has spent many years working in Africa and the Caribbean, and as a member of the African diaspora herself.
My art book on African & Diaspora artists at Arnolfini is finally ready! I have been their writer in residence for two year now, here in Bristol, and I’m so excited to share the result!
Some of the artists mentioned are from the UK; others from the USA, Jamaica, Montserrat, Sudan, Algeria, or Ghana. These include Sudanese pioneer Hussein Shariffe, John Akomfrah and the Black Audio Film Collective, Veronica Ryan, Keith Piper, Eddie Chambers & Donald Rodney from the Black Art Group, Sonia Boyce, Hassan Hajjaj and Frank Bowling.
The themes they address – migrations, belonging, identity – have also haunted my work as a journalist over the past two decades…
As a writer passionate about visual arts, this project has been a highlight in my career and working with the team at Arnolfini a real delight. I hope you’ll like the book.
‘For sixty years Arnolfini has been hosting extraordinary art for our visitors, and for the communities of the city. As the result of this longevity, the breadth of artforms we work with, and the many eras of activity we are delighted that Melissa has written her version of our story and the part that it plays in her life. So ‘Evenwhere’ is one view of our histories, and reminds us all that cultural institutions help to make cities, as well as providing life affirming moments on an individual level.’
– Gary Topp, Executive Director, Arnolfini
Here, there… Evenwhere is written by Melissa Chemam. commissioned by Arnolfini on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary. Edited by Phil Owen, Projects and Events Producer/Archivist. Designed by Jed Fielder.