Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain (2006)

"Not long after Conservatives gained power in Great Britain under Margaret Thatcher, Eddie Chambers, a young, black art student, tore a print of the Union Jack into pieces and reassembled it in the shape of a swastika. The result was a powerful--and controversial--statement about what he saw as the appropriation of the country by racist ideologues. In the work, Destruction of the National Front, the Union Jack/swastika occupied the first of four panels. In the other three, Chambers gradually disassembled the image until it became an unrecognizable collection of fragmented colors and shapes. Like the twist of a kaleidoscope that causes an image to blur momentarily before it resolves into a new pattern, Chambers' final panel offered the possibility of transformation.

Destruction of the National Front was a seminal work in what came to be known as the Black Arts Movement in Britain. The movement burst onto the art scene in the 1980s, giving rise to both outrage and admiration, and, in the process, remaking British culture. The movement itself was a response to the social and political currents and tensions of the day and, at the same time, an effort to make the invisible--in Ellisonian terms--visible. There was a sense of urgency as artists "struggled to produce a public and vital black British identity," says Ian Baucom, a professor of English at Duke and an expert in postcolonial studies. He compares the movement in importance to the Harlem Renaissance in the U.S. in the 1920s, the Sophiatown arts movement in South Africa during the 1950s and 1960s, and the early-twentieth-century Celtic Revival in Ireland."

The above extracts are from a text, Art of the Disenfranchised: The British Black Arts Movement, written by Zoë Ingalls and published March 31, 2006. The text related to Shades of Black: Assembling Black Arts in 1980s Britain, published by Duke University Press, 2006. The book itself featured a double page reproduction of Eddie ChambersDestruction of the National FrontIngalls' online piece also featured a reproduction of the work.