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Zoe Whitley

Zoe Whitley and Gill Saunders were the authors of a substantial publication bringing together the prints acquired for the collection of the V&A, by artists from Africa and the Diaspora. The publication showcased prints and related ephemera by 44 artists and one anonymous artists’ collective, PESTs. All of the artists represented were either born in Africa or could be categorised as belonging to its diaspora. 

The publication contained a major, wide-ranging 20 page essay, ‘So Much Things to Say’, written by Gill Saunders and Zoe Whitley.

From the text: “Some of those included in this book might baulk at the implied categorization. A book that has ‘blackness’ (or ‘African-ness’) as its primary criterion for inclusion undoubtedly enters dangerous territory. it is at risk of perpetuating, or normalizing, a segregation that many of these artists have actively resisted in the art world (pp.118-19); at risk of applying divisive or discriminatory criteria to work by black artists, indeed of reviving the contested category of ‘black art’ and rehearsing once more all the debates the subject attracts. ‘Africa’ is itself a problematic term suggesting a unity of practice and purpose that cannot apply to a vast continent of such complex racial, cultural and political diversity. By bringing these artists together - and the selection itself is somewhat arbitrary, since it is dictated by what the V&A has collected over the past 40 years - we are privileging place of birth, ancestry or race above the individual’s various allegiances, influences and identities, are in danger of forcing diverse artworks made in many countries, by artists young and old over four decades, into the straightjacket of race and diasporan politics.” 

The illustrated essay’s concluding paragraph begins, “Some of these artists are passionate about print, its nature and capacities, working with it as their primary medium; for others it is one option among many. But all have found in it an effective means to a purposeful end. Several have spoken revealingly of their engagement with an experience of printmaking. For Faisal Abdu’Allah, making a print is a ritual process, reflecting a spiritual outlook and involving prayer (p.69). for Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, her choice of etching is a deliberate allusion to ‘the historical depictions of human likenesses’.”


Related items

click to show details of In Black and White: Prints from Africa and the Diaspora

»  In Black and White: Prints from Africa and the Diaspora

Book relating to a publication, 2013