Staying Power provides a window into the rarely publicised every-day-lives of Black Britons during the second half of the 20th Century. In an exhibition spanning over two galleries and featuring over 17 photographers, the Victoria and Albert Museum aims to increase awareness of the contribution Black Britons have made to British culture and society. Retro enthusiasts rejoice in the showcase of unforgettable fashions: fur-lined collars, flares and kaleidoscopic prints…
By time-hopping through the decades, the exhibition explores themes of identity, stereotypes and integration within a ‘foreign’ society. Photographer Neil Kenlock captures the experience of first-generation migrants in their 1970s homes. His subjects pose proudly in front of televisions and telephones to a back-drop of dizzying wallpaper. With the photography of Raphael Albert we glimpse into the lives of beauty pageant contestants during an equality-lacking time. Beautiful women are primped, preened, adorned and often surrounded by men, leading us to ponder whether much has changed. Fast-forward to the 1990’s and British-Jamaican artist Maxine Walker presents us with a collection of self-portraits that challenge racial stereotypes. Walker displays the power of cosmetic and consumer goods by drastically transforming herself time and time again.
Staying Power gives a rounded portrayal of life for black Britons during a time of social and cultural upheaval; we focus in on the ordinary lives of the people and not just the ever-important confrontational image of marches and picket-boards. o second, third or even fourth-generation Britons today, the exhibition will have particular significance- these are their uncles, aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers and boy did they look good.
Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s – 1990s will be running at the V&A until 24th May.
[img='staying-power5.jpg' foot='Neil Kenlock, ‘Untitled [Young woman seated on the floor at home in front of her television set]', C- type print, London, 1972.']