Marcus Garvey Centenary Show

The pieces of work that I have submitted for inclusion in this exhibition are intended to be creative interpretations of the legacy of Marcus Garvey. The work attempts to nudge and ultimately relocate Garvey away from the popular “Back-to-Africa-and-nothing-else” mould in which he has regretfully been cast. Of course, no-one can deny that Garvey actively supported the notion of selective and constructive repatriation, but the “Back-to-Africa” tag has become distorted and misrepresentative. Some of this misrepresentation can be traced to sloppy, mischievous and superficial historians and journalists, who have disregarded or selectively ignored the wealth and depth of Garvey and Garveyism; and some of this misrepresentation is due to the fact that large numbers of Rastafarians have seized Garvey as their own, and lionized him firmly within a pseudo-mystical repatriation mould. 

By and large, it is left to Burning Spear (who, alongside John Henrik Clarke, Tony Martin, and Amy Jacques Garvey, must rank as the world’s most dedicated exponents of Garveyism) to faithfully interpret Garvey’s deeds and words.

The legacy of Marcus Garvey knows no frontiers, and, in a way, spans centuries and not just decades. After all, Garveyism can be summarised as being everything that is, and everything that has ever been progressive within Black politics, Black culture, and the Black community. Hence sum of the pieces of work utilise images and symbols that are very rarely linked to Garvey, but which can be directly or indirectly traced to his philosophy and opinions. For example, the piece Urgent Letter contains a scythe (as a symbol of work) and guns, as an obvious symbol of armed struggle. My assertion here is that the notions of collectively working the land, our land, and decisively confronting our oppressors are central planks of Garveyism.

From the statement by Eddie Chambers in the catalogue for OBAALA’s Marcus Garvey Centenary Show, at The Black-Art Gallery, London, 24 September – 24 October 1987, featuring work by Eddie Chambers, Olive Desnoes, Fowokan, Horace Opio Donovan, Kenneth McCalla, Linda King, Steve Monerville, and Shakka Dedi.