Black Artists for Uhuru (Manifesto, 1982)

… I myself shun the word “ethnic” though I have no doubt that its users are mostly well intentioned. I choose rather to call our art what it should and must be: BLACK ART!

As for most of us in art schools, one would not for a minute consider us to be members of a race who have been systematically enslaved in the most brutal forms of slavery ever, if not merely for the colour of our skins. By this I mean the work we produce gives no indication of our experiences, past or present.

            The Black art student, by the very colour of his/her skin, should find him/herself drawn towards the nerve points of social and political tension and unrest choosing to respond in this situation by producing work which voices their dissatisfaction with the offending bodies or people, offenders who may at one point in time or another include the police, the state, the educational system, the church, and so on. This work, in its clear, resolute, and eloquent terms cannot fail in the strength of its impact.

            Black art students! You have a growing obligation to acknowledge our race and the fundamental elements which characterize our existence in and through your work.

            Black art, at the very least, should indicate and/or document change. It should seek to affect such change by aiming to help create an alternative set of values necessary for better living, stronger communities, contemporary cultural identity, and so on, otherwise it fails miserably to be art befitting the black community. Black art, like everything else in the Black community must respond positively to the reality of revolution: revolution seen in earnest on our streets last summer.

A Black American writer has written “Let our art remind us of our distaste for the enemy, our love for each other and our commitment to the revolutionary struggle…” So let it be.


The above extracts are from a text by Eddie Chambers (originally published as “Black Artists for Uhuru”, Moz-Art magazine, Birmingham, Number 5, July 1982: 34) reproduced, with an introduction, in Why Are We ‘Artists’? 100 World Art Manifestos: Selected by Jessica Lack, Penguin Books, 2017: 340-342


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