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Art that touches the heart

POIGNANT: One of the pieces in Maggie Scott’s exhibition

FOR THE first time in my life, I saw a piece of art and wept. Not because the canvas was upsetting in any way, but because it was so beautifully touching that it brought tears to my eyes.

There was something so tenderly intimate about this piece that I could not help but stop and stare at the image for a very long time.

The picture I saw was of an interracial couple on their wedding day in 1960s London. The hope and devotion depicted in the artwork was so very real that it resonated in a part of my heart; I felt like I was absorbed into the emotions of the couple’s special day.

Seeking to open up dialogue about black British identity through art, Negotiations: Black In A White Majority Culture sees textile designer Maggie Scott using photographs from her past and imposing them on silk chiffon, to produce a series of art that is visually captivating and politically deafening as well.

Juxtaposing images of her black mother and white step-father’s wedding day with images of racist rallies to keep Britain white, (which occurred on the same day as the wedding), Scott has managed to skillfully capture a moment in time that was as delicate as the fabric it is printed on.

With the focus of the exhibition being about the black community negotiating a place in white majority Britain, Scott has also depicted other prevalent images, such as golliwogs and the Tressie dolls of the 1970s.

Famed for their long, straight hair, Scott believes that Tressie dolls were one example of “misinformation” given to young black Brits in the ‘70s about the ideal image.

“A lot of the work is looking at those early messages and how confusing it was to be given this misinformation about yourself as a young black person, and how you try to make sense of it,” Scott told The Voice. “I actually had a Tressie doll with the long blonde hair, so I have done a piece called Her Hair Grows.”

In addition, Scott’s exhibition also examines skin lightening. Devoting an entire room to the subject, Scott examines the damage that can be caused by the practice, whilst parodying the unachievable skin tones promised in some of the lightening adverts.

As a huge fan of exhibitions and museums, I feel that black art is all too often based in London, to the exclusion of the wider community.

But this exhibition, a collaboration between Arts Council England and arts organisation The Shape Of Things, is in the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in Leicester. A bit far for us Londoners, but the brilliant exhibit and the city’s beautiful scenery, make it well worth the trip.

Negotiations, Black In A White Majority Culture is at the New Walk Museum & Art Gallery in Leicester until May 20. For more information, visit

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