In the Black Fantastic on the Southbank is a glorious celebration of Black art

The exhibition will be one of London’s cultural highlights this summer, with a season of extraordinary multi-artform events

In the Black Fantastic at the Southbank Centre is a powerful celebration of Black art and culture

This summer, London is set to play host to an unprecedented exploration of Black art and popular culture courtesy of the Southbank Centre’s multi-artform event, Summer: In the Black Fantastic. Featuring outdoor art installations, music, literature, poetry and performance, the ground-breaking site-wide celebration was inspired by the Hayward Gallery’s exhibition of the same name, which is taking place from 29 June – 18 September and is set to be the UK’s first major show dedicated to the work of Black artists who use fantastical elements to address racial injustice.

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Chris Ofili, Annunciation, 2006. © Chris Ofili. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner

The show features a range of different elements spanning art, music and creative engagement, with one of the highlights being the In the Black Fantastic Weekender from 15 – 17 July, a three-day extravaganza that celebrates the breadth of Black art and culture – from new poetry, presented by special guest curator Inua Ellams, to music, film and discussions. Alongside this, the Riverside Terrace Stage will also be hosting free DJ takeovers, live music and performances throughout the summer, with artists exploring how the fantastic can be used as a gateway to Black creative and cultural liberation.

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Kara Walker, Prince McVeigh and the Turner Blasphemies, 2021 Video. © Kara Walker, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; Sprüth Magers, Berlin

As part of their art offering, a free outdoor exhibition, running from 10 June – 4 September, will bring together works by renowned artists including Hew LockeWangechi Mutu and Lina Iris Viktor, while Alisha Wormsley’s text-based work, There Are Black People in the Future, will appear on the side of the Royal Festival Hall building. Along the Queen’s Walk from 1 June – 4 September, visitors will be able to experience two different pop-up sound art installations: Peter Adjaye’s Music for Architecture and Dubmorphology’s Emergence, which takes visitors on an immersive journey through a soundscape of ancient drums, future sonics and the voice of pioneering postcolonial activist CLR James

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Rashaad Newsome, Stop Playing In My Face!, 2016 video. Courtesy of Rashaad Newsome Studio and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco

The Royal Festival Hall will come alive with a varied programme of music, kicking off with electronic music pioneer Jeff Millss presentation of Tomorrow Comes the Harvest on Sunday 10 July as part of a partnership with Fabric. Part of his collaborative work with the late Tony Allen – one of the founders of the Afrobeat genre – the show will offer up an evocative blend of two musical genres firmly rooted in Black experience. Another highlight includes Jazz Legends on Saturday 16 July, which will bring together renowned musicians including Sun Ra Arkestra, R&B legend Jean Carne and Prince acolyte Marva King for a show that commemorates true titans of Black sonic experimentation and imagination. 

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Sedrick Chisom, Medusa Wandered the Wetlands of the Capital Citadel Undisturbed by Two Confederate Drifters Preoccupied by Poisonous Vapors that Stirred in the Night Air, 2021. © Sedrick Chisom. Courtesy the artist and Pilar Corrias, London. Photo: Mark Blower

Meanwhile, in the literary realm, the exhibition programme includes two special events. Frist up on 30 – 31 July is In the Black Fantastic: Live, a multidisciplinary performance which draws on key works from the epic poem Sunjata, incorporating narratives from the African continent, the forced migrations of the diaspora and the dreaming of possible futures as embodied by writers such as Toni Morrison. There will also be a panel held between writers Courttia Newland and Michael Salu on Thursday 15 September, chaired by Canongate Books’ Editor-at-Large Ellah P. Wakatama, which will explore the influence of fantastical traditions in their own books, artworks, films and television productions.

“I’m delighted that the Southbank Centre has designed a multi-artform programme in response to the Hayward Gallery’s summer exhibition,” says the show’s curator Ekow Eshun. “In the Black Fantastic is an expressive exploration of Black popular culture at its most wildly imaginative, artistically ambitious and politically urgent. It brings to life a cultural movement that conjures otherworldly visions out of the everyday Black experience – looking at how speculative fictions in Black art and culture are boldly reimagining perspectives on race, gender, identity and the body in the 21st century.”

Summer: In the Black Fantastic will run from 29 June – 18 September at the Southbank Centre

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