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image for Art Exhibition item typeLubaina Himid: Warp and Weft

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Art Exhibition, Sat 1 Jul - Sun 1 Oct 2017, free entry

Lubaina Himid

Lubaina Himid


Warp and Weft is a survey of works by the 2017 Turner Prize nominee, Lubaina Himid.

A key figure in the Black Arts Movement, Himid first came to prominence in the 1980s when she began organising exhibitions of work by her peers, whom she felt were under-represented in the contemporary art scene. Her diverse approach disrupts preconceptions of the world by introducing historical and contemporary stories of racial bias and acts of violence inflicted upon oppressed communities.

Himid is best known as a painter, and Warp and Weft is comprised of three bodies of work in which the artist adopts the mantel of the History painter to question its imperialist tradition by introducing colour and pattern associated with the non-Western and the feminine. By reinserting forgotten black figures into this arena of power and prestige, Himid foregrounds the contribution of people of the African diaspora to Western culture and economy.

The exhibition’s title, Warp and Weft, refers to the process by which threads are held in tension on a frame or loom to create cloth. Himid chose the title for its reference to Colchester’s important position in the wool trade between the 13th and 16th centuries, and its complex history of race and migration that is reflected in the productive tensions of Himid’s work. Drawing together recent paintings and installation, the exhibition is part of Firstsite’s year-long focus on identity.

Naming the Money (2004) is the largest installation to make use of Himid’s signature ‘cut-outs’ — paintings made on freestanding, shaped boards that viewers can walk amongst. Like stage-flats, these works reflect Himid’s early training in theatrical set design. At Firstsite, 60 cut-outs represent African slaves in the royal courts of eighteenth century Europe, put to work as ceramicists, herbalists, toy makers, dog trainers, musicians, dancers, shoemakers, map makers and painters. The work features a soundtrack which gives voice to the figures, and shifts between their original African names and trades and the new names and professions imposed upon them in Europe.

A series of 85 small-scale paintings, (2002) derives from the defence of African slaves made by the workers of Lancashire’s cotton mills in the nineteenth century — a historic moment of solidarity between the British working class and their peers across the Atlantic. The enforced labour of cotton pickers on the American plantations underpinned the economic successes of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, a fact that became evident as the American Civil War led to cotton shortages, mill closures and mass unemployment. Despite the high personal cost, the workers’ unions in Lancaster passed a motion in support of Lincoln’s efforts to end slavery. An accompanying text reenacts this conversation between workers on two continents, an exchange dependent not upon language but rather pattern. Himid has said, ‘The point I am often exploring vis-à-vis the black experience is that of being so very visible and different in the White Western everyday yet so invisible and disregarded in the cultural, historical, political or economic record or history.’

The exhibition also includes the ongoing series Negative Positives (2007-) that continues Himid’s project of making visible. For ten years, Himid has over-painted The Guardian newspaper to highlight images of black people that she feels are implicitly prejudicial. Acknowledging the profound feelings of anger and frustration that underline this daily process of reading and selecting, Himid explains: ‘The invented and borrowed patterns on each page are painted to highlight this strange and inappropriate use of people as signifiers and finally to vent my spleen. Every day in Britain even the “liberal” press is simultaneously visualising and making invisible black peoples’ lives.’ In this work and throughout the exhibition, Himid’s work reasserts the importance of marginalised histories and visual cultures, a project that is as critical in 2017 as in the 1980s.

Warp and Weft follows three critically acclaimed presentations of Himid’s work at contemporary art institutions in the UK: the simultaneous solo exhibitions Navigation Charts at Spike Island, Bristol (20 January – 26 March 2017), and Invisible Strategies at Modern Art Oxford (21 January – 30 April 2017), and The Place is Here, a group show at Nottingham Contemporary (4 February – 30 April 2017), which traced conversations between black artists, writers and thinkers in 1980s Britain. Following the exhibition at Firstsite, the touring programme will conclude at the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston, in Spring 2018.

Praise for Lubaina Himid’s 2017 exhibitions:

“A trio of UK shows shines a light on the under-appreciated hero of black British art.” Louisa Buck, The Telegraph

“Born in Zanzibar and raised in Britain, Lubaina Himid makes work about everything from slavery to Thatcher to the cotton trade. Now in her 60s, she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves.” Hettie Judah, The Guardian

About Lubaina Himid:
Lubaina Himid (b.1954, Zanzibar) works in painting, drawing, installation and printmaking. Himid holds a BA in Theatre Design from Wimbledon Art School (1976), and an MA in Cultural History from the Royal College of Art (1984), where she graduated with a thesis entitled ‘Young Black Artists in Britain Today,’ anticipating her pioneering involvement in the Black Arts Movement of the 1980s and 90s. Himid organised a number of seminal group exhibitions in London throughout the 1980s, including Five Black Women, the Africa Centre (1983), The Thin Black Line, ICA (1985), and Unrecorded Truths, the Elbow Room (1986), which brought to public attention her own generation of black female artists. Over the past 30 years she has exhibited widely, both in Britain and internationally, including the solo exhibitions: The Ballad of the Wing, Chisenhale Gallery, London (1989); Inside the Invisible, St. Jorgens Museum, Bergen, Norway (2001); Revenge, Rochdale Art Gallery and South Bank Centre, London (1992); Navigation Charts, Spike Island, Bristol (2017); and Invisible Strategies, Modern Art Oxford (2017). Group exhibitions include Transforming the Crown, Studio Museum Harlem, New York (1997-98); Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of Slave Trading on Contemporary Art, the V&A Museum, London (2007); Migrations, Tate Britain (2012); Keywords, International Institute of Visual Arts, London, and Tate Liverpool (2013/14); and Burning Down the House, Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014). Forthcoming solo exhibitions include Hollybush Gardens, London; Turner Contemporary, Margate (both 2018).

Himid holds the position of Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire, where she leads the interdisciplinary visual art research project Making Histories Visible, reflecting critically on the success and failures of the Black Arts Movement and participating in numerous conferences on art of the diasporas. Revisiting her earlier work, Himid staged Thin Black Lines in 2011 at Tate Britain with curator Paul Goodwin, and has produced a series of research documentaries including Open Sesame (2005) and The Point of Collection (2007), in collaboration with Tate Liverpool. Himid lives and works in Preston, UK, and is represented by Hollybush Gardens.

Baby changing facilitiesCoach parties acceptedCredit cards accepted (no fee)Credit cards accepted (with charge)Disabled toiletsEducation/study areaFacilities for groupsFacilities for educational visitsGift shopOn-site cateringOn-site light refreshmentsPicnic sitePublic toiletsRegional Tourist Board MemberWelcome HostWheelchairs availableAccepts groupsFacilities for conferencingFacilities for corporate hospitality

Event details

Dates Times
Sat 1 Jul - Sun 1 Oct 2017 10:00 to 17:00


Free entry

Events at this Venue

date event
Sat 19 Aug Colchester Pride
Sat 17 Jun - Sun 17 Sep Ed Gold: Other Worlds
Sat 1 Jul - Sun 1 Oct Lubaina Himid: Warp and Weft
Sat 22 Jul - Fri 1 Sep Summer School
Sat 9 Sep Films on Local Heritage and History
Sat 16 Sep Clip


Lewis Gardens,
High Street,



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Map reference: TL 999252  Lat: 51.88968 Long: 0.90477

By Road:
Follow signs to the Town Centre.

Accessible by Public Transport: 1 mile from Colchester Town station


  • Baby changing facilitiesBaby changing facilities
  • Coach parties acceptedCoach parties accepted
  • Credit cards accepted (no fee)Credit cards accepted (no fee)
  • Credit cards accepted (with charge)Credit cards accepted (with charge)
  • Disabled toiletsDisabled toilets
  • Education/study areaEducation/study area
  • Facilities for groupsFacilities for groups
  • Facilities for educational visitsFacilities for educational visits
  • Gift shopGift shop
  • On-site cateringOn-site catering
  • On-site light refreshmentsOn-site light refreshments
  • Picnic sitePicnic site
  • Public toiletsPublic toilets
  • Regional Tourist Board MemberRegional Tourist Board Member
  • Welcome HostWelcome Host
  • Wheelchairs availableWheelchairs available
  • Accepts groupsAccepts groups
  • Facilities for conferencingFacilities for conferencing
  • Facilities for corporate hospitalityFacilities for corporate hospitality

Self-Assessed Accessibility Details


  • YesDesignated parking for guests with disabilities
    • YesWithin 50 metres approx. of entrance
  • The surface of the car park and pathway leading to entrance:
    • Yesis solid
  • YesDrop-off point for guests outside entrance
  • The route from the parking area to the entrance:
    • YesIs flat (i.e. without steps)

Public Areas

  • Level access (no steps/thresholds) or access by ramp or lift:
    • YesFrom the entrance to reception / ticket area
    • YesTo a specially adapted public toilet suitable for wheelchair users
    • YesTo the gift shop
  • YesGood contrast between the floor and walls
  • YesContrast markings on clear surfaces such as glass doors
  • YesBaby changing facilities
  • YesVisitor information available in large print (14pt and over)
  • YesHearing loop installed in public areas


  • YesSeating available for visitors with limited mobility
  • YesClear signage
  • YesEffective lighting for visually impaired visitors
  • YesGood colour/tonal contrast for visually impaired visitors
  • YesRoutes/pathways suitable for wheelchair users or visitors with limited mobility
  • YesDisplays at suitable height for wheelchair users / children
  • YesAudible alarm system


  • YesEntrance is well lit
  • YesAutomatic door at the main entrance


  • YesLevel access (no steps/thresholds) or access by ramp or lift to cafeteria
  • YesGood contrast between the floor and walls
  • Restaurant / cafe provide meals for visitors with special dietary requirements:
    • YesSugar free (diabetic)
    • YesGluten free (coeliacs)
    • YesLactose free (dairy free)
    • YesNut free
    • YesAdditive free
    • YesVegetarian
    • YesVegan
  • YesSeating suitable for wheelchair users, ie moveable and good height for person sitting in a wheelchair
  • YesHigh chairs for children
  • YesChildren's menu