Lubaina Himid MBE was born in Tanzania in 1954 and as a child moved with her mother to Britain, where she studied theatre design at Wimbledon School of Art.
Himid’s multi-media artworks investigate historical representations of the African diaspora and their significance to the contemporary landscape. Her works combine historical storytelling, installation, crayons and paint, often with the use of cardboard cut-outs. She commonly pastiches, distorts and reconstructs the style of white European artists, such as Hogarth and Picasso, in order to reconsider a historical black presence that has been ignored. Using satire and caustic humour, Himid’s work deconstructs European cultural dominance and celebrates black creativity and power.
Toussaint L’Ouverture commemorates the revolutionary leader who emancipated Haiti’s enslaved population. Himid’s use of support, a cut-out plywood board, betrays her training in theatre design, giving the work a set-like quality. It also reanimates this historical figure, the life-size composition amplifying the suggestion of movement. The collaged work builds up L’Ouverture’s trousers with newspaper cuttings of racial unrest and abuse, with Himid inscribing: “This news wouldn’t be news if you had heard out Toussaint L’Ouverture” - emphasizing the dearth of black history in our shared narrative, where a seminal figure is little studied in European academia and culture. The work provides a link to the Huntleys’ publishing house, named Bogle-L’Ouverture after the Haitian resistance fighter and the 19th-century Jamaican activist Paul Bogle.
An influential curator, Himid was responsible for curating seminal exhibitions in London of black British artists, such as Five Black Women, Africa Centre (1983), Black Women Time Now, Battersea Arts Centre (1984) and The Thin Black Line, ICA (1985). These shows introduced a generation of young Black and Asian female artists to the British art world, formalising the efforts of artists of the BLK Art Movement, and firmly establishing a voice and platform for seemingly sidelined artists, presenting concepts of identity, gender and culture to challenge the dominance of the white male artistic voice.
Himid has been exhibited nationally and internationally, from the 5th Biennale, Cuba (1994) to St Jorgens Museum, Norway (2001) and Peg Alston Gallery, New York (1996, 2008). Her work is held in public and private collections, including Tate Britain and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. She has since been featured in Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol (2017), Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford (2017) and The Place is Here, Nottingham Contemporary, Nottingham (2017).
Lubaina Himid (b. 1954)
Touissant L'Ouverture, 1987
Himid’s pioneering work investigates historical representations of the African diaspora and their significance to the contemporary landscape. Her role as an artist, curator and writer is credited with bringing visibility to Black British women artists in the 1980s and beyond.
Collage and crayon on wood
On loan from the artist