Born in Wolverhampton in 1960, Eddie Chambers studied Fine Art at Sunderland Polytechnic and is an artist and art historian focusing on Black and Asian British artists and art of the African diaspora. His work combines collage; paint and imagery, often distorting or including familiar images in politically charged confrontational works. Chambers formed the BLK Art Group in the early 1980s alongside Keith Piper and Donald Rodney and various other artists featured in this exhibition. The group’s work critiqued and reflected the anti-immigrant Conservative government at a time blighted by the rise of the British National Party and Brixton riots. Chambers was involved in numerous exhibitions held by the group, a highlight being The Other Story, a survey of Asian and African artist at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1989.
How much longer you bastards (1983) viscerally describes the brutality and discrimination again black people in apartheid South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s. It also references the complacency of Britain’s Conservative government and economic powers that failed to implement sanctions. The work features the logo of Barclays Bank, involved in business in South Africa, alongside pages of The Financial Times and a publicised image of parents carrying their dead child from the 1976 Soweto uprising. The repetition of this graven image reinforced the violence of the situation and the inaction of the government despite the escalation of the catastrophe. The juxtaposition of prosaic and well-known visual cues such as the Barclays logo and newspaper pages with the deep red paint of the work, the bloodied text and the shocking images creates a direct, powerful and charged image. The red text, painted as if dripping with blood, demands “HOW MUCH LONGER YOU BASTARDS” and describes Barclays Banks as “THE FINANCIAL BACKERS OF APARTHEID”. There is no subtlety in this piece and its multifaceted composition and large size demands attention and a response from the viewer. Reconfigured more than thirty years later in the Guildhall Art Gallery, in the heart of the financial district of the City of London, the work still indicts and demands responsibility from those involved in both public and private financial dealings abroad.
Chambers has been notably key in writing, curating and formalising the art history of Black British artists and artists of the Asian, African and Caribbean diaspora. He formed the African and Asian Visual Artists’ Archive (AAVAA) in 1989 and his extensive researching and publications has been instrumental in highlighting the key Black artists often side-lined in traditional art history.
Eddie Chambers (b. 1960)
How much longer you bastards?, 1983
This work includes a well-known media photograph of the Soweto uprising in South Africa in 1976. Events in Soweto illustrated the inhumanity and brutality of the apartheid system. In Britain, there were widespread protests aimed at companies with South African links.
Mixed media on board
On loan from Museums Sheffield