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Artists to shine a light on untold stories of Black Tudors

A Birmingham-based Museum is working with four young artists to explore the untold stories of black people living in England over 500 years ago.  

Artists Annie Pearson, Nompumelelo Ncube, Jade Eynon and Nina-Simone Brown have been commissioned by Selly Manor Museum in Bournville, managed by Bournville Village Trust, to work on the exciting project.

Each young artist will create works depicting the lives of Black Tudors, whose ordinary and extraordinary lives have been researched by historian and author Dr Miranda Kaufmann.

The artwork will be developed into an engaging exhibition ‘Black Tudors: New Narratives’ and go on display at the Museum, which includes a 500-year-old Tudor house, from Friday 26th January to Friday 22nd March 2024.

Louise Deakin, Heritage Engagement Officer at Selly Manor Museum, said: “Although more than 200 people of African origin or descent lived in England during the Tudor period, there is only one image of a Black Tudor; John Blanke, a royal trumpeter.

“To paint a true picture of Tudor England, it’s important that the stories of Black Tudors are explored and represented. Working with Annie, Nompumelelo, Jade and Nina-Simone will add new layers of interest to the stories we tell at the Museum and introduce new ideas and themes to visitors.

“We want the exhibition to engage audiences who don’t usually visit the Museum and we want them to see their culture and history reflected back to them and know that they have been part of the British story for a long time.”

Jade Eynon, a student painter, said: “Participating in this project is an honour as I can play a part in increasing public knowledge of the role black Britons have played.

“Having studied art history at college and university, I’m aware of how little representation there is of black people in Tudor art and how this erases them from history, so I am excited about helping people to visualise Black Tudors.”

Nompumelelo Ncube, a photojournalist and public historian, said: “Being part of this project is an opportunity to get stuck into the things I love; storytelling, fashion and bringing visibility to a historical figure that has been forgotten. I’m elated and honoured to be part of the project.”

Annie Pearson, poet, artist and creative, said: “I’m so honoured to be involved in something so monumental for my local community. As a young girl walking around Selly Manor, I could never have imagined that I would one day be working with the museum, especially in such a progressive capacity.”

Nina-Simone Brown, an artist, said: “I can’t put into words just how helpful and inspiring the session with Dr Pogus was. I definitely feel more confident and informed moving forward with the project.”

The exhibition, which will also include a poem written especially by poet Amanda Hemmings, will be launched during National Storytelling Week (30th January – 6th February 2024), which encourages people to engage in stories new and old.

For February half-term 2024, Selly Manor Museum will also have a special week-long family-friendly event to compliment the exhibition, with a children’s trail, storytelling and ‘Zine workshop.

The project is generously funded by West Midlands Museum Development and supported by Black Arts Forum.

As part of the paid commission, all artists have taken part in a development session at Selly Manor Museum. Delivered by established artist and photographer Dr Pogus Caesar, the session enabled the artists to reflect on their developing practice and benefit from his experience and guidance.

For more information about the exhibition, please contact Louise Deakin at louisedeakin@bvt.org.uk or 0121 472 0199.

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