Black British Art in Space (published online by Architectural Review, London, January 2016)

... Other factors contributed to the setting up of the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop, but chief amongst them was the need for the provision of literature that in some way spoke to the conditions of Black people, not only in Britain but in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean region, which was itself experiencing no end of social, economic and political tensions at this time. London’s Black bookshops (and those elsewhere in the country), always relatively few in number, became important spaces not only for acquiring books, magazines and pamphlets that addressed the Black experience, but also functioned, critically, as meeting places or spaces of cultural and political exchange, interaction, sustenance, and solidarity. The Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop reflected the ways in which the printed word assumed a profound importance as a means through which the various dimensions of the Black experience could be articulated. At a time when traditional libraries and high street bookshops invariably carried little to nothing about Black people (particularly literature by Black writers) the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop functioned as a beacon, an oasis, in an otherwise culturally and educationally parched landscape. Crowded with books, every square foot of floor space and virtually every inch of wall space being utilized or occupied, the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop and others like it exuded a marked blend of cultural defiance and racial nourishment.

...The bigger picture of the the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop installation, and to a large extent the wider exhibition, speaks to the vulnerability of spaces created by and for people of colour in the current moment. With the Black bookshop having been pretty much consigned to history, a valuable set of assets was lost to the Black community. The erasure of Black spaces of nurture and resistance has extended to the small, but wonderful cluster of Black arts centres such as the Keskidee Centre in North London that flourished in the 1970s and 1980s. Like the Bogle L’Ouverture bookshop, such arts centres were often brought into existence by energetic visionaries, rather than local government or other state initiative. But the vagaries and machinations of funding bodies have seen to it that these spaces too have had their day. And though its origins, development and manifestation were of an altogether different order, the current misfortunes of the Institute of International Visual Arts (Iniva) and its mooted eviction from the David Adjaye-designed Rivington Place gallery in Hoxton point to the continued vulnerability of bricks and mortar premises that have a certain raced presence and occupancy.

The above extracts are from “Black British Art in Space”, a text written for the Architectural Review, London, published online 23 January 2016,