Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Noone came here to hide © Maggie Scott

‘Playing the Race Card’

The biggest exhibition of Black artists on the south coast opens this Friday, 21 October and promises to spark debate and challenge racism. Opening during Black History Month, Playing the Race Card, features the work of 25 Black artists responding to their perceptions or experiences relating to the intentionally undermining  term ‘playing the race card’. HOT’s Erica Smith looks forward to an empowering show.

Playing the Race Card was launched in November 2020 as a community-led project that invited UK artists – both professionals and enthusiasts – who identity as being Black, to create artworks responding to their perceptions or experiences relating to the oppressive phrase ‘playing the race card’ and replace a culture of victim blaming with a celebration of diversity.

The resulting artworks first appeared as an online gallery, but this weekend a physical exhibition of new and existing works opens at Greenhalf Studio, featuring the work of both national and local artists. Each artist shares with the viewer a profound insight into their perceptions or lived experiences relating to the concept of ‘the race card’. A variety of approaches are explored including painting, textiles, photography and video.

Playing the Race Card’s Project Director, Claudine Eccleston, said; “When Black and racialised people call out racism, too often we are blamed for being oversensitive or even accused of using sensitivities around race to our advantage. This Black woman has never felt that ‘a race card’ was something other than in the soul of the racist and has never gained advantage from it. We hope this exhibition will help turn this problematic metaphor on its head and be a catalyst for debate, as well as encourage many more Black people to start creating.”

Lorna Hamilton-Brown MBE

The project is produced by highly acclaimed textile artist Lorna Hamilton-Brown MBE. Lorna is known as the ‘Banksy’ of the knitting world and recently designed the ‘Unity’ patch for the England Commonwealth Games Team kit. She questions the lack of visibility of Black crafters’ and documents their hidden histories. Lorna also sits on Vogue Knitting’s Diversity Advisory Council, and is Vice Chair of the Crafts Council’s Equity Council.

Lorna says: “I am thrilled to be working on this unique and timely exhibition, not just because the subject matter is so close to my heart, but because it will be the first time ever that so many Black artists have shown work in a single exhibition in Hastings – maybe even East Sussex – which feels like an important and historic moment for our town.”

Caught up © Jacqui Cooke

Artists featuring their work in the exhibition include self-taught London-based portrait artist, Jacqui Cooke. Born in Britain to Jamaican parents, Jacqui enjoyed a long and successful career in the creative services before realising her dream in 2014 of becoming an artist. Working primarily in oils, Jacqui developed her technique by studying Old Masters, and has created a varied portfolio documenting the achievements of individuals from the African diaspora.

Hastings-based Vanessa Alves, is also exhibiting her work ‘The Skin I Am In’ – a short video showing a poem overlapping the image of her skin. As well as being an artist, Vanessa is also a writer and works in a local school, she says: “I allowed my own experience of being a Black woman to inform this piece. It is an experience of what it means to me as I currently understand. However, like my skin, it will change and develop.”

Izzy is a 16 year old singer/songwriter from St Leonards, who was part of the Playing the Race Card planning group and whose collage Our Existence Matters is featured in the exhibition. Izzy says: “I chose to create a piece of artwork for the Playing the Race Card exhibition, as I feel that art is an amazing way to express feelings. Living in a predominantly white area I felt like I didn’t have a voice, or if I did, I wasn’t listened to. The piece of artwork was my voice, I included everything I wanted to say. Things that if I said would just be ignored and shunned away, however because it was in a different format, a piece of art, people pay attention. I tried to include little bits of several topics I felt were important to me and I am really proud of the final piece.”

Events across the weekend

Anita © Dorcas Magbadelo

In addition to the exhibition there will be a live panel discussion exploring the issues raised within the artworks on 22 October at 2pm in the exhibition space. Facilitated by artist Maggie Scott, the panel will include writer Sarah Gwonyoma, Illustrator Dorcas Magbedelo and visual artist Femi Dawkins.

Panel members are also included in the exhibition with Femi Dawkins submitting one of his ‘Aunt Sally’ Dollywogs, a reference to a blackface doll in the 1820s inspired by “low life” character Black Sal. Femi makes art out of Barbie dolls, after his daughter lost interest in playing with her doll because she couldn’t see herself. Inspired by the teachings of his children, Femi playfully subverts the status quo. His Dollywogs are a humorous take on golliwogs. “Dolly” taken from the Patois word, “dollybaby” and “wog” taken from the racial slur.  Illustrator, Dorcas Magbedelo, will be exhibiting a new work entitled ‘Anita’ – a fashion inspired digital illustration, playing with contrasting colours and bold patterns, showing Black women taking up space on the page.

On Sunday 9 October there will be a Youth Collage & Chill session to be facilitated by Afri-Co-Lab in their Art Space. This is a great opportunity to encourage Black and People of Colour aged 14–18 to think about what the phrase ‘Playing the Race Card’ means to them and to use artworks from the exhibition as inspiration to create their own collage.

Playing the Race Card will be open 11am–5pm, Thursdays to Sundays, from Friday 21 October to Sunday 6 November at Greenhalf Studio, 7–11 Market Street, St Leonards, TN38 0DG. The majority of the artworks in the exhibition will be for sale.

For further information, on the exhibition, panel discussion and the Youth Collage & Chill session, visit the Playing the Race Card website.

If you’re enjoying HOT and would like us to continue providing fair and balanced reporting on local matters please consider making a donation. Click here to open our PayPal donation link. Thank you for your continued support!

Posted 21:47 Wednesday, Oct 19, 2022 In: Arts News

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

Leave a comment

(no more than 350 words)

Also in: Arts News

More HOT Stuff

    HOT is run by volunteers but has overheads for hosting and web development. Support HOT!


    Advertise your business or your event on HOT for as little as £20 per month
    Find out more…


    If you like HOT and want to keep it sustainable, please Donate via PayPal, it’s easy!


    Do you want to write, proofread, edit listings or help sell advertising? then contact us


    Get our regular digest emails

  • Subscribe to HOT