Exploring Black History with N. Ronke October is Black History Month here in the UK. To celebrate the occasion, artist N. Ronke will be sharing works - new and old - each week. N. Ronke is a Narrative Printmaker and Digital artist whose work predominantly focuses on Horror and Folklore. N. Ronke was a featured artist in our 2020 Tate Exchange. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the event itself was cancelled, so we are thrilled to be able to work with N. Ronke again on this new commission. Throughout October, we will be sharing work chosen by N. Ronke relating to the theme of Black History. They will take us on a tour of overlooked and oft-forgotten figures from British Black history through intricate and dynamic new lino prints and their own thorough research. Week One - Missing Panels Comic Week Two - Cattelena of Almondsbury Week Three - Fanny Eaton Week Four - William Cuffay Week Five - Mary Prince Week One To kick things off this week, though, we're looking back to N. Ronke's 2018 work, 'White People Problems,' from the comic 'Missing Panels,' which examines how a lack of representation contributes to the invisibility of needs, concerns, and mental health in BAME communities. Missing Panels was commissioned by Esther De Dauw and Leicester University. By combining academic research and comics, the project aimed to bridge the divide between academia and the artist community and raise awareness about the underrepresentation of BAME communities. This project explores the intertwined relationship between the British health care system and N. Ronke’s father, a doctor, and his view of mental health as a Nigerian man. A downloadable version of the image descriptions is available at the bottom of this page. White People Problems, from Missing Panels (2018) You can read a Microsoft Word version of the image descriptions here. Week Two This week, N. Ronke introduces us to Cattelena of Almondsbury ( - 1625). Cattelena is one of the earliest documented ‘independent’ Black women living in England. Although her life wasn’t atypical of a single woman of the time in rural England, the significance of Cattelena being a Black woman living not in bondage but as a free human in the late sixteenth century – until her death in 1625 – should not be understated. As written in her probate, her most valuable possession was her cow, which was not uncommon for the time as it allowed her to make, sell, and live off the milk and butter produced by the cow. Cattelena’s existence shows us that Black people have always been interwoven into the history of Britain as free and independent people *before* the establishment of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Week Three We're halfway through October, but N. Ronke still has a few more works to share with us. This week, we're looking at Fanny Eaton! Fanny Eaton has commonly been referred to as the forgotten beauty of the Pre-Raphaelite era. A Jamaican-born Black woman who was lorded for her beauty by world-renowned artists in the middle of an era that pushed the idea of white supremacy in beauty via colonisation. Fanny was not just a model who challenged 19th century perspectives of race and beauty in art, she was also a working-class mother of ten who was born only a year after emancipation and died in the early 20th century. Her struggles have been romanticised with paint, leaving us with the faded impression of the life of a working-class Black woman whose life was likely more impacted by her station than her race. Week Four This week, N. Ronke is looking back to William Cuffay for their Black History Month commission. William Cuffay was a tailor who became a prominent leader of the Chartist movement, the first mass political movement of the British working class. He was the son of a former slave, looking towards the betterment of the working man, and knew the importance of representation in Parliament. His dedication to those around him led him to become one of three London delegates at the National Chartist Convention in 1848. After being arrested in the summer of the same year for ‘conspiracy to levy war’ against Queen and country, he was sentenced to 21 years in Tasmania, where he continued to fight for the working man’s rights up until his death at 87 years old. William Cuffay is a figure of class solidarity in spite of race, dedicated to raising the quality of work and life in a time when poverty was expected to be dealt with without question. Week Five It's the final week of October, which means it’s also the final week of #BlackHistoryMonth and our collaboration with N.Ronke. Luckily, we have got one more work to share with you before we look back on the month as a whole… This week, N.Ronke introduces us to Mary Prince. Mary Prince dictated one of the first accounts of what it was like to experience slavery from the point of view of a slave. Her account tells the story of her life from childhood as a slave in Bermuda where she was sold at the market along with her sisters, aged just twelve years old, to the constant brutality she faced at the hands of so many different masters, all the way to her escape when she was brought to England with her latest enslavers, the Wood family. Her depiction of the life of a Black female slave was so graphic and horrific that many didn’t believe the stories to be real. It was only after testimonies from multiple white women of high standing – who bore witness to the scars on Prince’s body – that she was believed by most British abolitionists. However, for all her spirit and bravery in escaping and talking of her enslavement, Prince was still at the mercy of a people who, at best, thought of her as lesser. She is one of the base rungs in our climb to racial equality who may not be seen to be as significant as other Black historical figures but was just as impactful in the fight for equality.