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“Black” British Aesthetics Today

Book relating to a publication, 2007
Published by: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Year published: 2007
Number of pages: 389
ISBN: 978-1-4438-0601-5

image of “Black” British Aesthetics Today

The outcome of a conference, this is collection of essays edited by R. Victoria Arana, a Professor of English at Howard University, Washington DC. The book was first published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2007, reissued in 2009. The larger proportion of the book’s contents does not deal directly with the visual arts. There are however, a number of chapters that focus on British artists such as Yinka Shonibare, Martina Attille, and Roshini Kempadoo.

From the book’s back cover: “ “Black” British Aesthetics Today is a collection of twenty-four exciting critical and theoretical essays exploring current thinking about the hottest artistic, literary, and critical works now being produced by ‘black’ Britons.

This book features a number of chapters by the avant-garde ‘black’ British novelists, poets, and artists themselves. It includes, for instance, aesthetic manifestos by Diran Adebayo, Anthony Joseph, Roshini Kempadoo, Sheree Mack, Valerie Mason-John, and SuAndi as well as key essays by globally renowned critics, including Amna Malik, Kobena Mercer, Lauri Ramey, Roy Sommer, and many others. As a compendium, this book represents a powerfully fresh intellectual current of thought. It provides readers with important insights into contemporary ‘black’ aesthetics, and it includes an array of important clarifications initially voiced at the groundbreaking international symposium that took place on April 8, 2006, at Howard University in Washington, D.C., by outstanding new scholars in this burgeoning field of study: e.g., Kevin Etienne-Cummings, Valerie Kaneko Lucas, Michael McMillan, Magdalena Maczynska, Courtney Martin, Jude Okpala, Deirdre Osborne, Koye Oyedeji, Meenakshi Ponnuswami, Sandra Ponzanesi, Andrene M. Taylor, Samera Owusu Tutu, and Tracey Walters.

The authors contextualise contemporary “black” British aesthetics in relation to the African, African American, and Postcolonial aesthetic traditions; they explore an exciting array of critical theories, trends of feeling, and lively aesthetic movements thriving today in ‘black’ Britain; and, they examine and assess embodied aesthetics at play in a wide range of specific works by today’s most brilliant ‘black’ British novelists, poets, photographers, live performance artists, dramatists, architects, musicians, graphic artists, and cinematographers”

The book is divided into four ‘Units’. Contents as follows:

Preface, by the editor


Introduction by the editor, titled Aesthetics as Deliberate Design: Giving Form to Tigritude and Nommo.

There then follow the four units, as follows:

Unit I: The Sankofa Tradition: Looking Back to Move Forward

Chapter 1. Black British Writing: “Hitting Up Against” a Tradition of Revolutionary Poetics. Andrene M. Taylor, Howard University

Chapter 2. Cultural Memory and Today’s Black British Poets and Live Artists. SuAndi, OBE, Poet, Black Arts Alliance, UK

Chapter 3. Postcolonial Aesthetics and Black British Aesthetics: Kindred Spirits in Error. Jude Chudi Okpala, Howard Community College

Unit II: Critical Theories and Aesthetic Movements

Chapter 4. “Diaspora Didn’t Happen in a Day”: Reflections on Aesthetics and Time. Kobena Mercer, Middlesex University

Chapter 5. Situating a “Black” British Poetic Avant-Garde. Lauri Ramey, California State University at Los Angeles

Chapter 6. Music and Metafiction: Aesthetic Strategies in Black British Writing. Tracey Walters, Stony Brook University

Chapter 7. In Search of (Adequate Representations of Our Post-Black Condition). Koye Oyedeji, School of Oriental and African Studies

Chapter 8. The Aesthetics of Realism in Contemporary Black London Fiction. Magdalena Maczynska, Marymount Manhattan College

Chapter 9. The Continuous Diaspora: ExperimentalPractice/s in Contemporary Black British Poetry. Anthony Joseph, Poet, South Thames College, London (erroneously written on the contents page as South James College).

Chapter 10. The Resounding Underground: Performance Poetry in the UK Today. Samera Owusu Tutu, Independent Journalist, UK

Chapter 11. “Pretty is the New Black”: New Directions in Black British Aesthetics. Diran Adebayo, Novelist, Arts Council of England

Unit III: Embodied Aesthetics

Chapter 12. The Aesthetic Turn  in “Black” Literary Studies: Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and the Case for an Intercultural Narratology. Roy Sommer, Wuppertal University, Germany

Chapter 13. The Twentieth-Century Dandy as Cultural Provocateur: Yinka Shonibare, MBE, and the Diary of a Victorian Dandy. Courtney J. Martin, Yale University

Chapter 14. Alienation and Alienation Effects in Winsome Pinnock’s Talking in Tongues. Meenakshi Ponnuswami, Bucknell University

Chapter 15. Not ‘In-Yer-Face’ But What lies Beneath: Experimental and Aesthetic Inroads in the Drama of debbie tucker green (sic) and Dona Daley. Deirdre Osborne, Goldsmiths College, London

Chapter 16. Migratory Aesthetics: (Dis)placing the Black Maternal Subject in Martina Attille’s Dreaming Rivers (1988). Amna Malik, Slade School of Art

Chapter 17. “There’s No Justice - Just Us”: Black Britons, British Asians, and the Criminal Justice System in Verbatim Drama. Valeries Kaneko Lucas, Ohio State University

Chapter 18. Digital Media Practice As Critique: Roshini Kempadoo’s Installations Ghosting and Endless Prospects. Roshini Kempadoo, Goldsmiths College, London

Chapter 19. Aesthetics of the West Indian Front Room. Michael McMillan, Middlesex University

Chapter 20. “Speaking in Tongues”: Dialogues of Self, Society, and Psyche. Sheree Mack, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Chapter 21. Aesthetics of the Trans-Raised Diasporic Black British. Valerie Mason-John, Novelist

Unit IV: Activists in the Vanguard of Black British Aesthetics

Chapter 22. Kadija Sesay: Literary Activist for the New Black British Aesthetic. Kevin Etienne-Cummings, University of Michigan

Chapter 23. Susheila Nasta: Public Intellectual on Current Black British Aesthetics. Sandra Ponzanesi, Utrecht University, The Netherlands



The book’s cover features a reproduction of a work by George Fowokan Kelly, ‘He Who Holds the Sword of Retribution.’

A note of caution. There are a number of factual errors contained in the book. For example, Mercer’s text, “Diaspora Didn’t Happen in a Day”: Reflections on Aesthetics and Time erroneously states that Chris Ofili “won the 2002 Turner Prize”. The year was in fact 1998. Elsewhere, in Chapter 16. Migratory Aesthetics: (Dis)placing the Black Maternal Subject in Martina Attille’s Dreaming Rivers (1988), by Amna Malik of Slade School of Art, she states “One might also mention the work of Guyana-born artist Hew Locke.” Locke was in fact born in Edinburgh.




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»  Roshini Kempadoo

Born, 1959 in Crawley, Sussex, England