In celebration of Black History Month, Bianca Saunders new exhibition is a raw celebration of home.
Bianca Saunders SS20 Campaign
In light of Black History Month this October, menswear designer Bianca Saunders welcomes you to a new exhibition opening this weekend, exploring Brixton’s Caribbean diaspora. Nearness opens up discussions surrounding the changing face of this neighbourhood, celebrating identity, creativity and community spirit.
The South London district situated at the end of the Victoria Line, has been home to a large Black Caribbean community since the end of World War Two. The docking of HMT Empire Windrush in 1948 marked the beginning of cultural transformation in the area, the ship carrying the first significant wave of Caribbean immigrants to Brixton. Since then, the district has welcomed a 24-hour jerk shack (amongst countless other Jamaican restaurants), frequent Reggae nights at clubs in the area, and numerous salons specialising in Afro hair. In recent years however, gentrification has got its clutches on Brixton, bringing in a swathe of over-priced and over-hyped businesses with punny names and a new condom beanie wearing clientele. Nevertheless, Brixton’s West-Indian community still remains strong and it’s Saunders wish to pay homage to this, her hometown and cultural heritage.
Celebrating black creatives, Nearness showcases the work of artists including, designer Jazz Grant, poet Caleb Femi and film-maker Akinola Davies Jr. Whilst all connected by their powerful sense of place and identity, each of the artists represent the black experience in their own way by using multi-disciplinary techniques and by introducing varying concepts. Rochelle White for instance has contributed with her film Roadworks (2019). The performance piece responds to Mona Hatoum’s Performance Still (1985) from the exhibition Roadworks, showing the artist walk through Brixton barefoot with a pair of Doc Martens strapped round her ankles by the laces. Swapping the Doc’s for Nike Air Force, the piece follows White from Gresham Police Station in Brixton to Peckham, the trainers symbolising the modern day Black British experience. Moving image artist Davies meanwhile, provides us with shots of iconic Brixton Market whilst delving into the importance of the marketplace in African communities.
The exhibition also features images from the young designer’s SS20 campaign. Shot by Ronan McKenzie, again there is potent sense of familiarity, as well as an exploration of Saunders own cultural identity. Not only is the collection modelled by family members against a warm yellow backdrop, a colour she strongly associates with her Caribbean heritage, but the hair is even styled by her mum. The designer is known for combining streetwear and tailoring, but in this collection I also detect, via the inclusion of ankle socks and loafers, a nod towards the trend popular at the time of the first wave of West-Indian immigrants.
Nearness will be aptly held in Brixton village, a location that not only reflects the content of the exhibition but also highlights the need for accessibility in the arts, encouraging an ethos of inclusivity by bringing it to the very people it represents. The exhibition is also an important contribution to Black History Month, something all too often overlooked in the UK and attributed as more of an African-American observance. Saunders, however, believes it sits as a golden opportunity for black British history to be commemorated, as well as celebrating its present day legacy.
‘Nearness’ at Market Row, 408 Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, London, SW9 from 25th-27th October 2019