As part of the content for this blog, we will also be offering short posts on the artists and art works in the Arrivants exhibition. Here is the first, on Eddie Chambers and his untitled flag.
Born: Wolverhampton, England, 1960; Based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Austin, Texas, USA
The son of Jamaican immigrants, Eddie Chambers is a British-born art historian, curator and artist. In 1998, he gained his PhD from Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is currently a Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin, and has previously served as visiting faculty at Emory University, Atlanta, and the Edna Manley College, Kingston, Jamaica. His recent publishing includes Black Artists and British Art: A History Since the 1950s (2014), and Roots & Culture: Cultural Politics in the Making of Black Britain (2017), both published by I B Tauris, London and New York. His curatorial projects include such exhibitions as Black Art: Plotting the Course (1988) and Black People and the British Flag (1993) and, most recently, in 2014, Art History: Selections from the Green-Christian Collection (2014), at the Visual Art Center, Department of Art and Art History, University of Texas at Austin. His own art practice has been featured in exhibitions such as The Other Story: Asian, African and Caribbean Artists in Post-War Britain (Hayward Gallery, London, 1989-90), curated by Rasheed Araeen. Chambers’ early work, a collage, The Destruction of the National Front (1979-80) is now in the collection of Tate Britain.
Growing up Black, in Britain, in the 1970s, it seemed to me that I did not really have a flag. I had never been to Jamaica, so I did not feel that the flag of that country was mine. Racism and a certainly alienation from the British nation state meant that I did not see the British flag as being mine either. What I did start to feel, by my mid-teens, was a strong pride in my Afrocentric ancestry, history and heritage, engendered, in no small part, by the teachings of Rastafari, and reggae music. My flag, made in the mid 1990s by a flag maker, was my attempt to create a Black British ensign, that took account of the influence of Rastafari on the making of Black Britain. With its Rastafari colours of red, gold and green, for me at least, this was a flag that I could finally identify with.