Get Up Stand Up, Now: Exhibition Review
The description is so very broad. Black creativity, whether celebrated or not, has been abundant since the beginning of time. From verbal storytelling to song writing, literature and fine art, theatre to architecture, fashion and beyond. Even with a time frame of just 50 years, I wondered how they would squeeze all that creativity into one show. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I had to go. I also love an excuse to visit Somerset House and reminisce about those old Uni days (shout out my KCL crew!).
Get Up Stand Up, Now is a mixed media exhibition curated by Zak Ove, son of the trailblazing film maker and photographer Horace Ove. You’ll find everything from sculpture, music, literature, photography, film and an array or artworks using methods I couldn’t even begin to pinpoint.
The exhibition takes you on a journey though time, the first pieces you encounter document the often-forgotten West Indian soldiers who fought in WW2. As you meander through, you hit the 70s and 80s, with tributes to Afro pics, dapper suits and black power.
Sets of headphones are dotted throughout where you can pause and listen to the sounds of whatever era you’re in. A few of the stops took me back to Sunday mornings at as a child, remember those days when you knew your plans were cancelled and the day was going to be devoted to cleaning!
Horace Ove is a big star of this exhibition There are unseen photographs and short films in many of the rooms. If like me, your knowledge of his work is limited, this is a good introduction to the man and his craft.
There are some very recent pieces such as Faisal Abdu'Allah’s gold plated Barber Chair and Barber Clippers. I’ve seen this once before. Something about it’s throne-like presence, shrouded in black and delicately lit from above took my breath away for the second time.
I’m a big fan of tube map art, from the light-hearted to the poignant and this piece by Thic/ker Black Lines was extra special to me as it depicts connections between Black British women/femme artists. There were so many names I didn’t recognize so makes a good starting point for a bit of self-learning.
I also loved this sculpture by which depicts that classic drinks seller at Carnival who we all know and love. You can tell I’m gearing up for the long weekend.
You end your journey light years ahead in the world of Afro Futurism, where space age themes and traditional African crafts collide. I’m new to the Afro Futurism boom but loved the mix of styles in these artworks and am definitely intrigued by the themes coming through in modern literature.
The very last stop is a room designed by Victor Ekpuk. It’s the perfect spot to sit and discuss what you’ve seen or wait for the room to clear so you can take a portrait like I did!
Take time: There are so many videos to watch. Give yourself two hours if you want to watch them all. You can even borrow a fold-able chair from the front desk so you can sit and watch in comfort.
Ask the experts: To get the right flow of the exhibition, ask the team to direct you with where to start first. They are happy to help
Read the intros: Each room has a piece of perspex outside which explains what ties the items in the room together. This helps to add some perspective as it’s not always clear just from being in the room.
Embrace the gift shop: I usually speed walk through the gift shop straight to the exit, but this one is treasure trove of black owned businesses. There are books, apparel, home-wares, beauty supplies, stationary – the lot. There were a few brands that I follow on social media that I was able to check out in the flesh which was really nice.
Now on at Somerset House