British Black arts movement leader Ingrid Pollard has examined pub culture in Britain and its relationship with racism in her recent exhibition, "Seventeen of Sixty Eight," displayed at Tate Liverpool. Pollard's aim with the exhibition is to start a complex conversation about the history and symbolism of pub signs, in particular, those named "Black Boy" and their multiple meanings. Her installation consists of photographs, prints, kinetic sculptures, and demonstration banners. Additionally, she shows a looped video of a dancing blackface marionette, which she believes is an important reminder of the underlying racism in many seemingly innocuous figures.
Turner Prize Finalist Ingrid Pollard Explores Why So Many British Pubs Have the Same Racist Name
Ingrid Pollard is a leading member of the British Black arts movement and continues to explore themes of race and British identity through her work. Her recent installation, "Seventeen of Sixty Eight," on display at Tate Liverpool through March 19, examines pub culture in Britain and its relationship to racism. The exhibition includes photographs and prints of pub signs and related paraphernalia, with a particular focus on the prevalence of the "Black Boy" name and its multiple meanings.
Pollard's goal with the exhibition is to open up a more complex conversation about the history and symbolism of the pub signs. She notes that the signs often have stories attached to them that go beyond a simple political explanation of racism in Britain. Some locals claim that the signs were named after real people, such as an enslaved boy saved by a barman, while others suggest that they refer to King Charles II, who was said to be swarthy. There is also a connection to colonial trade, indicating that certain pubs sold rum, sugar, and tobacco when the majority of the population was illiterate.
Pollard's installation includes a variety of representations of the figure of the Black Boy, including modern and historical depictions. She notes that many of the signs have changed with the times and reflect both historical aspects of Britishness and contemporary life. This complexity is evident throughout the exhibition, which includes not just pub signs but also photographs, prints, kinetic sculptures, and demonstrations banners.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a looped video of a dancing blackface marionette, which is tucked away inside a closed cupboard. Pollard notes that this figure connects to the tradition of blackface minstrels and the industrial scale of slavery, particularly in America. The video is shocking and unsettling, but Pollard believes it is an important reminder of the underlying racism in many seemingly innocuous figures.
Overall, Pollard hopes that her exhibition will prompt visitors to think more critically about the history and symbolism of the pub signs and to engage with the complexities of race and British identity.