Blog Archive

Friday 5 September 2014




Pressure is mounting on The Barbican from a growing number of organisations and individuals outraged by the arts venue's decision to host the offensive Exhibit B, designed by white South African, Brett Bailey. Over 15,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Barbican to withdraw from hosting the exhibition. 

A coalition of organisations have come together to campaign against the exhibition together with the petition author, Sara Myers. This includes BARAC UK, OBV, BEMA, UpRise, Unite the Union, PCS union, NUS Black Students Campaign, OBU, Legali, DLA & YEMANJA & BEF. 

On 2nd September, as The Barbican had failed to respond to our second letter to them,  BARAC sent an open letter to the City of London Corporation, which owns The Barbican.

On 4 September we received the following response from The City Corporation Chief Executive:

Dear Ms Holbourne

Firstly, let me assure you that your concerns in relation to the presentation by the Barbican Centre of Exhibit B are taken seriously. The City Corporation, and in turn the Barbican Centre Board, recognise the strength of feeling in relation to Exhibit B. It tackles controversial and sensitive issues and has rightly initiated intense debate.  

There is no  mechanism for the public to directly address the Court of Common Council. Given the timing of the Court of Common Council meeting, and that the next meeting of the Barbican Centre Board takes place after Exhibit B, and the strength of feeling on this issue, we would be able to arrange a meeting between you and representatives from the Barbican Centre Board and management to discuss the issues raised by Exhibit B in advance of 23 September.  

Yours sincerely,
John Barradell 

 We have written back to Mr Barradell setting out the terms of any meeting to take place. 

If We Stand for Nothing, We Fall for Anything, by Zita Holbourne

We invite you to join us at two protests next week as follows: 

We plan to lobby  the City of London Corporation Court of Common Council taking place on Thursday 11 Sept at 1pm, assembling 12.15pm. The address is: Great Hall, Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5. Join the Facebook event for details and updates. 

On Saturday 13th of Sept we will be staging an event at The Barbican to hand in the petition, assembling at 1pm.  The address is: The Barbican Exhibition Centre, London, EC1Y0. Join the Facebook event for details and updates.

If UK arts institutions wish to explore the histories of black people, they need to understand and acknowledge that our story did not begin with enslavement, colonial rule, apartheid and segregation.  They need to understand that the atrocities that were inflicted on us are not us. They must acknowledge that the objectification of us during periods of history cannot be addressed by repeating this objectification and labelling it art. Contrary to The Barbican's claim that doing this is empowering, it is in fact about power and privilege. It devalues and undermines our worth in a degrading way. Our lives, histories, struggles and successes cannot be understood by the recreating of a human zoo. 

  As an artist and curator, I create and promote art that challenges racism but also promotes equality. I am the curator of the Roots, Culture, Identity Art Exhibition
which is currently on tour and showcases the art of young black artists.

From the collection 'Still Rising, Still Shining' by Zita Holbourne

 Here is an extract of the Press Release for the exhibition which will be hosted by the Public and Commercial Services later this month: 

 Zita Holbourne, curator, artist and an elected member of the TUC Race Relations Committee said; ‘Following the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence, the TUC set up a Task Group to examine institutional racism and one of the agreed actions was to make the Marble Hall at Congress House available to showcase the talents of young Black people. I am delighted to be curating this exhibition and that the Race Relations Commmitee is giving an opportunity to young Black artists to share their talents with a wider audience. Young black people are impacted negatively and disproportionately on multiple grounds by austerity, both in the labour market and by cuts to arts funding. It’s important to nurture the extraordinary talent that exists in our communities, now more than ever.  Such talent and the important messages and ideas about the world we live communicated through art, need to be shared, understood and celebrated.’

Rise Up Against Racism, by Zita Holbourne

Brett Bailey's exhibition does nothing to address the institutional racism, amplified by austerity that black people face today in the UK or to celebrate our achievements throughout history or today. 

Zita Holbourne, Campaign Press Officer, 
National Co-Chair BARAC UK.  

Scroll down for Boycott the Human Zoo Campaign connectivity and Press contacts

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