the black british experience at the v&a

The museum shows recently acquired photographs of black British life from the 1950s to the 1990s.

by Stuart Brumfitt
Dec 16 2014, 10:20am

In Staying Power, opening on 16th February next year, the V&A will display over 50 recently acquired photographs of black British life. Working with the Black Cultural Archives, the museum has made an effort to improve its collection in a previously under-represented part of their archive.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), they've collected 118 works by 17 artists ranging from Yinka Shonibare's large-scale series Diary of a Victorian Dandy (1998), to studies of elaborate headties worn by Nigerian women, by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere, to black and white street photography of 1970s London by Al Vandenberg.

Staying Power

will showcase a variety of photographic responses to black British experience. On display will be intimate portrayals of British-Caribbean life in London in the 1960s-70s by Neil Kenlock, Armet Francis, Dennis Morris and Charlie Phillips. Music, style and fashion are documented in Raphael Albert's depictions of the black beauty pageants he organised from the 1960s to the 1980s to help celebrate the growing black community in Britain and Norman 'Normski' Anderson's colourful depictions of vibrant youth culture of the 1980s and 90s.

To complement the photographs, Black Cultural Archives have collected oral histories from a range of subjects including the photographers themselves, their relatives, and the people depicted in the images. To coincide with the display at theV&A, Black Cultural Archives will also present an exhibition drawn from the collection (15 January - 30 June 2015) at their heritage centre in Brixton. 

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s, 16 February - 24 May 2015


Normski, 'African Homeboy - Brixton, London, 1987', printed 2011, c-type print © Normski / Victoria and Albert, London
Neil Kenlock, 'Untitled [Young woman seated on the floor at home in front of her television set]', C- type print, London, 1972 © Neil Kenlock / Victoria and Albert, London
J. D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, 'HD-55774 (Beri Beri)', from the series Hairstyles, gelatin silver print, Nigeria, 1974 © The Estate of J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere / Victoria and Albert, London

Black British Experience
staying power