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Censored, From Nigger to Nubian

Solo show at 198 Gallery - 1993
Exhibition ended: 10 July, 1993
Organiser: 198 Gallery

The first solo exhibition by Faisal Abdu’Allah, Censored, From Nigger to Nubian, took place at the 198 Gallery, in south London, in summer 1993. It consisted of a series of works - screen prints on etched steel – that were to become something of his trademark. One particularly imposing series consisted of five full-length portraits of young Black men, printed on oversize sheets of steel. The work was at once gritty and contemporary, and, despite the unquestionable power and strength of the portraits, the work was simultaneously enigmatic and understated. In this regard, steel was a singularly original and appropriate medium on which to screen-print the images. Steel is a material that, in its making, is quite literally forged in the fire. And yet, upon manufacture, can acquire a cool, minimal, and decidedly modernist aesthetic. The images of the young Black men all provocatively engaged with, or oscillated between, rap iconography and the objectification of young Black males as having a close proximity to criminality, deviance, and threat. Within this work, the artist appropriated iconography from popular culture in an attempt to question particular pathologies – both spoken and unspoken – relating to media and other representations of the young Black male.

Another one of the works in this exhibition consisted of two screen prints of a hooded young Black man, his facial features hidden from view by the hood’s shadow. The man is located in a background that signifies an urban, concrete jungle environment. Across the horizontal sheet of steel are etched the words – continually repeated – Fuck the Police. The words are derived from the celebrated song ‘Fuck da Police’ by N.W.A. that had been released several years earlier. The song railed against police brutality and the racism it signified. As such, for Abdu’Allah, it presented itself as an ideal vehicle to reflect what were arguably similar resentments on this side of the Atlantic.

Abdu’Allah’s work in the exhibition reflected an intense interest in the power of the photographic image, in both a crioical and an affirming sense, thereby drawing attention to what Abdu’Allah saw as the trajectory, the important and indeed, seismic journey of self-discovery that he simultanteously took, and urged others to take, from Nigger to Nubian. The exhibition reflected the enormity and urgency of the task of Abdu’Allah’s quest for maturity as an artist and as a Black man.

The press on Faisal Abdu’Allah’s exhibition included Shock of the Nubian, a one-page feature, written by The Watchmen Agency and appeared in The Face magazine, July 1993. the previous year. From the text: “[Faisal] reacts strongly to the portrayal of black people in art. Few have been as exploited and at the same time excluded as black people: plagiarised, patronised and romanticised from Picasso to Mapplethorpe to Haring. While other people’s versions and visions of black culture have never been too far from the gallery wall, the people themselves have remained outside.”

Related items

click to show details of Shock of the Nubian | Faisal Abdu’ Allah

»  Shock of the Nubian | Faisal Abdu’ Allah

Article relating to an exhibition, 1993

People in this exhibition

»  Faisal Abdu’Allah

Born, 1969 in London, UK

Exhibition venues

»  198 Gallery

London, United Kingdom