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In recent years I have found it easier to face the “trauma” of aging by marking my birthday with an interesting arty experience. This year four generations – my mum, daughter, grandson and myself visited the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to view RegardingAfrica – Contemporary Art and Afro – Futurism.
The term Afro – futurism refers to music that grew during the 1960s among Afro – Americans as well as to the poetry, comics, cinema and art that developed later. Today it applies to a wide range of art that reflects an African version of futurism. The initial works were created during the post – colonial period: the 1960s-70s, called Africa’s “Decade of Independence”.
Today Israel has a growing community (known as Little Africa) of immigrant workers and asylum seekers from Africa. Some of the works presented in this exhibition were created by artists from within this Tel Aviv community and expressed various aspects of the Africa – Israelconnection and of the way Africa has assimilated into the Israeli imagination, fantasy and reality.
I expected that this exhibition would have political overtones but was surprised to discover the work of artist Adjani Okpu-Egbe, born 1979 Cameroon: lives and works in London. His piece titled “The Politics of Mary Seacole” grabbed my attention not only because of the bright vivid colours- red, green and black (colours of the pan-African flag) but because of the astonishing text in the painting “Michael Gove, hands off”. It appears that Mary Seacole was born 1805 in Jamaica to a Jamaican mother and Scottish father. When the Crimean War
broke out in 1853 Mary opened an independent hotel in England to treat battlefield wounded with the secrets of herbal medicine she had learned from her mother.
Mary was forgotten for many years but more recently she has become the object of renewed attention though some have claimed that her importance is being exaggerated in the name of political correctness. It appears that Michael Gove, as former Secretary of State for Education wanted to remove Mary Seacole from the National Curriculum. This opened a renewed debate about the place and role of a black woman in British history.
I had never heard of Mary Seacole’s story and controversy. It was so unexpected to come across art work in Tel Aviv inspired, albeit in a negative light, by recent UKpolitics. As is so often the case when you visit a really good and interesting exhibition, I left this one with many questions, ideas and thoughts to explore.