‘Daddy, I want to be a black artist’, by Kimathi Donkor
This exhibition of new work by Kimathi Donkor will reflect on themes arising from Donkor’s engagement with local teenage black residents as they discovered the work of black British artists in the national collection at Tate Britain during workshops conducted earlier this Summer.
There are 73,000 artworks in Tate’s collection, with about 15 of the 3,500 artists from both black and British identities – including Chris Ofili, Sonia Boyce, Donald Rodney, Frank Bowling and current Turner Prize nominee, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. For this exhibition and inspired by the experiences of these recent workshops, Donkor has created new large scale paintings that embody the his ongoing concerns with identity, aesthetics, agency and representation.
Alongside these new paintings, visitors will be invited to participate in a museum-style ‘learning zone’ where numerous resources and materials will be available for visitors to further explore the works that were visited during the workshops and the wider representation of black British artists within the UK’s visual arts culture. There will also be opportunities to learn more about the experiences of the young people engaged in the project. By combining new works and resource facilities within the exhibition space it is hoped that black British artists can be celebrated and their place in the national heritage reconsidered.
The starting point for the commission was a series of workshops proposed by Kimathi Donkor for Leaders of Tomorrow, a leadership and enrichment programme for black teenagers of African and African-Caribbean heritage in Southwark. With the support and collaboration with Peckham Space, Donkor led the group on a series of after-hours and behind-the-scenes visits to exhibitions at Tate Britain and Tate Modern, as well as to Tate’s conservation studio. For many of these teenagers, these sessions marked their first visit to the gallery, as well as the first time they had been asked to critically consider and research works of art by prominent black British artists. Following the visits, the young people discussed, debated and wrote about the relationships between themselves, the artworks, the gallery and Britain’s black communities. From these workshops, Donkor has drawn out narratives, themes and imagery in order to create his paintings and the learning zone for the exhibition.
The exhibition’s wry title, ‘Daddy, I want to be a black artist’, can be seen as a playful call to action for young people to find inspiration in the works of black British artists and become the artists of tomorrow. At the same time it suggests a sense of trepidation and intrigue about the relationship between the politics of race and perceptions of exclusion and mystique in the contemporary art world.