London’s leading young art activists have given a voice to the unheard, as multidisciplinary artists, dancers and lyricists take inspiration from the artwork of Revolutionary Artist and Former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglasand his iconic images depicting the Black civil rights movement and uprisings, to create – a series of disruptive and immersive art activations across the capital city from 6 – 9 August, on the anniversary of the landmark UK uprisings, which shook a nation.
Funded by Arts Council England, the international bi-annual programme ESB (Empire Strikes Back), run by non-profit cultural communications organisation Louder Than Words, has supported six artists across a series of workshops led by Greg Bunbury, the award winning Black Outdoor Art curator and host of the Design For People podcast, alongside Chill Create label owner, lecturer and graphic designer Carolyne Hill. The sessions included exclusive master classes and Q&As with the official photographer for theBritish Black Panther Movement, Neil Kenlock and the Revolutionary Artist and Former Minister of Culture for the US Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas. The ESB programme explores Emory Douglas’s uncompromising approach to resistance and his visual mythology for the powerless and unheard.
Revolutionary Artist and Former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas said: “When Louder Than Words asked me to support ESB this year, I didn’t think twice. My work in creating art for the Black Panther Party has always been about creative collaborative expression and using art for activism. I’m honoured to pass inspiration down to the next generation of art activists. This incredible project cuts to the heart of the story. A story of inequality, pain, oppression and self-determination, using art to inform, enlighten and educate, to bring change.”
Occupying four major train stations on the exact date the 2011 UK uprisings took place a decade ago, an art activation and performance took place at Tottenham Hale Station on Friday 6 August during the evening rush hour, with spoken word artist Beverly Bossanga and Anell Enning; Brixton Tube Station on Saturday 7 August during peak shopping footfall with poet Haroon Khan; Hackney Central Station on Sunday 8 August during the traditional Sunday lunch rush with filmmaker Johan Shay and dancer Olga German and at East Croydon Station on Monday 9 August during the evening rush hour with Hip hop lyricists Lekan ‘Ajarni’ Kehinde. Each site-specific art protest was amplified in real time by an AdWagon video van, which projected on screen audio-visual content linked to each performance.
Louder Than Words founder, Myvanwy Evans said: “Through this year’s ESB programme, we are honoured to mark the tenth anniversary of the uprisings that shook and woke our nation. With support from the iconic and legendary Emory Douglas this project has enabled our artists to create something truly unique and we hope to disrupt London in a peaceful, yet profound way. As Martin Luther King said ‘Riots are the language of the unheard’ and through the multidisciplinary art activations executed by our six talented emerging artists, this language gives a voice to the voiceless young Londoners of now and then.”
Black Outdoor Art curator and host of the Design For People podcast, Greg Bunbury said: “It has been humbling to take part in the workshops for ESB with these six incredible artists and with Emory Douglas supporting and inspiring has made it extra special. What they have created is a deep connection for Londoners to peacefully and thoughtfully re-experience the uprisings of 10 years ago through multiple art forms. ESB is about decolonising the creative process across diasporas, it’s powerful and important work that must be protected at all costs.”
ESB participant, Spoken Word artist, Beverly Bossanga added: “Being part of another ESB project has been an experience I will never forget. My activation art piece was a spoken word performance inspired by the work of Emory Douglas and the 2011 riots. The purpose of my piece was to give voice to the 2011 uprisings and I was overwhelmed by the conversations that came from this piece. Speaking with Emory Douglas gave me the push I needed to complete my piece as well as all the reasons why the uprisings are still relevant till this day.”
An ESB film by Socialize Media Limited will showcase each art activation at a major art gallery. Louder Than Words will publish the artworks within an ESB zine as a limited edition hardback coffee table book.
ESB is the connector of a diaspora of post-colonial, next generation artists to international galleries through a bi-annual programme, which made its debut in London in 2020. ESB will continue to deliver a bi-annual programme throughout the colonies and former colonies of the British Empire. Debuting in the UK, then moving on to the African continent, USA and the Caribbean. The programme has been designed to strengthen global cultural ties, while challenging and dismantling systemic social structures that oppress communities. The bi-annual ESB zine (print and digital) will document each programme and celebrate a pioneering, yet under-heard artist in each country. With its DIY ethos and themes of independence at its core, the ESB zine aims to empower emerging creatives to contribute to the international discussion on decolonisation.