Let’s Talk About Race
Building resilience and agency through Caribbean art heritage in the UK
Britain today still fails to accept or discuss its imperial heritage. The legacy of the Empire is often ignored and left under-researched and, as a result, people from ethnic minorities still face inequality and prejudice in Britain today. Dr Fabienne Viala’s research has helped create space to talk about race and imperialism. Her project used exhibitions and performances of Caribbean art instead of traditional histories, highlighting the strength and independence of BAME communities. The project has provided a vital space for an open discussion about the Empire’s lingering legacy.
The slave trade and colonial rule continue to define how we imagine the Caribbean to this day. This project used Caribbean art as an alternative method of storytelling to present an empowering narrative of Caribbean history and help illustrate a history that has been ignored.
Alongside Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, Sydney Stringer Academy, Birmingham’s ACE Dance School and Untold Dance School in Amsterdam, Dr Viala used a variety of means to engage local communities with her work:
Exhibitions of Caribbean photography
- School workshops
- Spoken word poetry
- Performances of drama and dance
The exhibitions attracted a diverse audience and encouraged discussion of the legacy of colonialism. Through workshops, Dr Viala introduced a new generation of young people to an untold outlook on Caribbean history and empowered them to tell their own stories and explore their personal cultural history through photography, art, performance and poetry. Performances devised in response to Dr Viala’s workshops and the art empowered young people from ethnic minorities to express their own experiences of modern Britain.
The exhibitions engaged large audiences from local communities with questions of race and empire. Visitors from local British-Caribbean communities reported a new sense of pride after seeing Caribbean art celebrated in public and many visitors commented that the project would help bring Coventry’s diverse communities together. Dr Viala’s workshops also engaged with a large number of enthusiastic young people in local schools, many of whom live in areas of high deprivation and have limited access to art activities. Students felt more confident to tell their own stories and take part in the arts in future and performers responding to the project thought about both their art and themselves in new ways.
A selection of the images included in the "Embodied Islands" photo exhibition