"There were also a few personalities—mostly Afro-Americans—who had opened up little clubs in the West End of London. This was allowed by the censors for they recognized the group-consciousness of the West Indian and West African and accepted that there should be places of relaxation. One of the most famous of these was the Florence Mills Club, manned by Amy Ashwood Garvey; you could go there after you'd been slugging it out for two or three hours at Hyde Park or some other meeting, and get a lovely meal, dance and enjoy yourself.” (Ras Makonnen, Pan-Afrikanism From Within, 1973)


The idea of making use of spaces, transforming existing ones, creating new ones, making a living and a change, very much carries through the following pages. The importance to have, maintain, and organise places, frameworks, and opportunities that allow a continuity to negotiate and fight over common grounds. Making spaces vibratory. To imagine a restaurant or a nightclub in Manchester or London in the 1930s as a business proposition but at the same time as a safe space in which to conspire to liberate Africa; to imagine a restaurant as an art gallery—while working as a waitress—and proceeding to turn it into one; or to imagine a roving workshop that voyages across the continent revolutionizing art education—as well as a mothership in Lagos.



As with other countries across Africa, Nigeria inherited a British colonial educational system. Whilst independence ushered in a new era in which self-determination was the corner stone, the colonial educational system remained intact and its legacies remain discernable today—barely changed and largely unchallenged. (Bisi Silva)


In developing Àsìkò, it was clear that while pre-existing pedagogical models could be mined for inspiration, the programme had to be developed through a hybrid, experimental, and fluid structure in order to account for the varied levels of experience on the part of the participants. (Bisi Silva)


Indeed, the sentiment of learning through others has become a staple of the Àsìkò experience. Throughout the six editions, artists and curators formed social and intellectual bonds with each other, as well as with the various facilitators, often resulting in long-term collaborative thought and practice. As the programme moved from one city to another, different sites played important roles stimulation networking opportunities, research inquiries, or mental and physical discovery be it through the library at CCA, Lagos, the Olympic swimming pool in Dakar, or the excursions in Ethiopia to the ancient cities of Lalibela and Axum. (Bisi Silva)Inflight04_05

I’m not a born historian, I don't have even a degree in history, but I was so appalled at nobody knowing anything about the presence of Africans in Britain, when I came here as an immigrant in 1965—I come from a Jewish family and what was left of us went from Hungary to Australia in 1948—that I thought, “Something has to be done!” (Marika Sherwood)


Ashwood Garvey’s first venture was the International Afro Restaurant, which opened at 62 New Oxford Street in 1935. A year later, together with her partner, the Trinidadian calypso singer Sam Manning, she opened the Florence Mills Social Parlour, a jazz club at 50 Carnaby Street. In the 1950s, she launched the Afro Women's Centre & Residential Club (later known as the Afro Peoples Centre) at her home, Number 1 Bassett Road in Ladbroke Grove. I was taken by Nydia Swaby's arguments about the underrecognised role of such spaces in political movements, and about the aesthetic dimensions of political activism. That's where I began. (Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa)



Amy Ashwood Garvey must have been one of the most widely-travelled women of her generation. She seems to have been nearly everywhere at some point, always with different names, different job titles. There are places where she is described as a sociologist, others where she's identified as a writer or researcher, others where she's a theatre producer. But she shows up in all sorts of different places and—maybe this is a bit “Marcus Garvey-ish,” as well—she meets groups and founds groups but does not necessarily stick around to see things through. (Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa)



A word to home—a simple call across the waters to say not merely how we are doing, but what, and to reassure loved ones that, indeed, we are well and are doing good. But even more, a chance to close the distance through the warmth of a human voice. It’s World War II, and people in the Caribbean are hungry for news from and about the people who have left for Britain to join the war effort. They crave the voices of those whose sounds no longer populate their streets, so they tune in to the BBC to catch the news, and maybe even some measure of hope. (Garnette Cadogan)


something is cooking
kindness in leaves
i misread help for meat
no, meat for help
some suggestions for doing without meat is what venu writes to the british
because it is her job
and introduces indian vegetarian cuisine where nothing has gotten wasted
even outside of wartime
then and now
please don’t think this is just an oriental legend
she says so in the home service
underlines that she has an english friend cuts the fried tomato, and the curry, too wonders if you will be interested to know what an indian housewife would do
and see yourself in your kitchen
through eastern eyes
on the radio

(Theresa Kampmeier)


The collection of documents and interviewing people and recording the interviews—this must be done by local groups, and they should be applying to their local police forces for surveillance documents.  As far as I know, all political organisations would have been under police surveillance, especially in the 1940s, the 1930s, because that’s what the government told them to do. Of course, no police force that I have approached has ever said, “Yes, here you are.” Usually, the response is, “What makes you think we would have them?” (Marika Sherwood)



Getting hold of the FBI files, for example, is really useful—there are copies in the Robert A. Hill Collection at Duke University [...] There's only a small bit in the FBI files he acquired that is related to Amy Ashwood Garvey or to the role of women in the UNIA, but the documents he did gather are super interesting. The FBI files are an amazing source of information, but it's such a weird thing and also really problematic, because the sources are not, of course, supporters of these movements but rather those who were infiltrating them, intercepting their mail, copying their letters, in order to discredit, dismantle, and undermine them. At the same time, because the state has often been successful in destroying such organisations—or because such organisations have lacked the resources to create and preserve their own archives—because so much has been lost, we, as researchers of these organisations, often find ourselves reliant on this material, the archives of states that were actively working against them. (Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa)


I left school and found out that I was inadequately trained to do anything useful, so I decided to do something useful which was to be a waitress. And as you can imagine, actually, I wasn't a very good waitress either, but then again I learned that restaurants, like markets and streets and museums, are also theatrical places where human beings interact with each other and drama happens. And if you work as a waitress in the same restaurant for many years, as I did, whilst I was doing bits of pieces of kind of designing things—I designed the restaurant’s interior, the menus, tables, and all the rest. (Lubaina Himid)

As to the kinds of conversations that I am actually interested in, I think back to the women that I made certain exhibitions with—Thin Black Line (1985) and Five Women (1983) at The Africa Centre, Black Women Time Now (1983/84)—where the way I did it was to have conversations around the kitchen table. And I was saying, “I like what you've done already and I like the way you are—the way you're relaxed about a strategy”. But that's just because they're artists, so they don't have a strategy, usually. Hopefully. Until we were just talking about—in those days—what we wanted to see in art galleries and what we were not seeing. (Lubaina Himid)


Freedom and Change (1984) was all sorts of things. It was a conversation with Picasso. It was a declaration that I would be concentrating my time on moving the conversation about who Black women are and what we can do, what we talk about and how we are a lot of things. It was a piece about moving forward. The piece comes from a piece by Picasso called The Race. It doesn't mean race it means a race along the beach.
In his version, two women, white European women, are running along the beach and you know that by the time they get to the end of the beach they won't have any clothes on because their dresses are kind of coming apart as they run. Because I'm a very respectful person, I put the clothes on the Black women in my piece very firmly. As they are running along the beach, they are kicking sand in the faces of these cut-out men, they bury them and tread on them on the way past and they have these vicious dogs with them. (Lubaina Himid)


We have a long and ongoing history of conversations with the British art world that has allowed for an awful lot of work to be made, a lot of shows to be seen, a lot of conversations to be had. In a way this piece, which I made early on, as part of The Thin Black Line in 1985, is talking about that. About how they'll be tempting you to be part of these things, to make these shows, to have these conversations, but you have to understand that at the heart of who you are as an artist, the most important thing has to be making the art. Don't think about the strategy, don't think about the future—think about the making. That's the kind of conversation I'm having now with much younger artists who ask me, “How can I win the Turner Prize?” (Lubaina Himid)


The revenge is us, still carrying on. Rape us, kill us, enslave us—you could do all that, but we're still here and we're still in your space because you were in our space. You were in our place and now we're in your place. And the revenge is about still being here. (Lubaina Himid)


When I started, I called myself a Black woman artist and there's no way that I'm ever going to change that. I'm not going to say, now I've won the Turner Prize, that I don't want to be known as a Black woman artist, however much that tends to box you into a corner. It's also a dangerous place to be. You define an identity for yourself and then for forever we're not talking about collage, we're not talking about the blue paper or the acrylic paint. We're talking about Black politics, and that's a dangerous thing to do, but I started doing it and so I'm going to carry on doing it. When I think about the younger artists that are working now and the artists in the 1950s that were working then, some of whom are still alive today—if they don't want to define themselves as Black artists, if they want to be known because they are sculptors, because they are filmmakers, I think that is a move in the right direction. (Lubaina Himid)