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Black Cultural Archives

Jan Marsh, Jan Marsh Blogspot

A plug for the new Black Cultural Archives centre in Brixton, and its opening exhibition, featuring the heritage of Black women in Britain through modern history, starting with a digital reconstruction of the face of a woman of African origin buried in York 2000 years ago, and the head of a serving woman in a drawing by Albrecht Dürer now in the British Museum. It doesn’t aim to cover everything, partly because space is tight, but it gives a brilliant visual tour from the centuries up to the present, with Claudia Jones and Baroness Doreen Lawrence among recent figures of renown, and a poignant silent movie by John Akomfrah dramatising the experience of Dürer’s sitters – so a great variety of media and approaches in a concise installation. Also included the original ‘Crimea scrapbook’ – in fact a double folio volume of professionally mounted items including the oval photograph of Mary Seacole found in Winchester College library. It is a pity that the gallery space is not larger because today it was difficult to move around for all the families studying the exhibits and panels and listening to the audio-guides – but a good augury for the future, with well-focussed, thoughtful displays.

The building is worth seeing too – the conversion of a run-down regency house with a new front courtyard space and a modern extension, by architects Pringle Richards Sharratt, based in Stockwell, who were responsible for the comparably visitor-friendly updating of the William Morris Gallery in E17.

Oh and of course there’s a café.

Jan Marsh Writer and Curator author of biography and art history Check out The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal