Launching the Black Tudors exhibition
On Thursday evening we launched our exhibition Black Tudors: New narratives
The exhibition explores aspects of Tudor life and has been created in collaboration with young artists of Black Heritage. The Black Tudors project was inspired by the only known image of a Black Tudor – John Blanke, a royal trumpeter for Henry VIII, and Miranda Kaufmann’s book ‘Black Tudors: The Untold Story’.
The exhibition is displayed in Selly Manor, which is one of the oldest buildings in Birmingham and was first mentioned in 1476 as a farmer’s cottage. It was originally in Selly Oak and was extended throughout its life and became quite prosperous during the Elizabethan and Stuart eras. Sadly, it fell into decline during the Victorian era, and in 1907 George Cadbury bought it at auction and had it moved to Bournville to be restored and opened as a museum. A dwelling that most Tudors would recognise as a home - it seemed that Selly Manor was the perfect backdrop to highlight the lives of these individual Black Tudors, who for the most part lived ordinary lives.
We wanted to be able to tell their stories, but also provide visual representations. We, the museum team are all white, so it was essential that Black voices and experience be part of this project. We also want to support younger people in our communities. That’s where our four artists come in: Nina-Simone Brown, Annie Pearson, Jade Eynon, and Nompumelelo Ncube. Each of them of Black Heritage, aged 18-25, and live or study in the Midlands. They have created fantastic artwork which bring these Tudors to life.
It was essential for us to partner on this project, so that we could reach the right people. Black Arts Forum and Pogus Caesar have been key to the success of this project. Pogus Caesar is a conceptual artist utilising multiple media. He was born in St Kitts, West Indies, and grew up in Birmingham, England. He has documented prominent figures and historical events such as the Handsworth Riots in 1985, a significant period of social unrest. He was the perfect person to provide guidance for the artists, in a development session.
The best thing about this project has been the support of others. So many individuals and organisations have been enthusiast about sharing it. And people are interested in learning about Black Tudors and how African culture has been part of British history for a long time. Amanda Hemmings has captured the Black Tudors in her poem ‘Meeting the Black Tudors’, which forms part of the exhibition.
Black Tudors: New Narratives is at Selly Manor Museum until Friday 22nd March 2024.
This exhibition is funded by West Midlands Museum Development. The funding meant we could pay the artists’ commission fee based on Arts Union England rates of pay, creating opportunities for a greater economic range of young and emerging artists to develop their skills.
Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann
England’s Other Countrymen by Onyeka Nubia
How to be a Tudor by Ruth Goodman
History Extra (episode Black Tudors)
Not Just the Tudors (episode Black Tudors)
Dan Snow’s History Hit (episode Black Tudors: England’s Other Countrymen)
Gresham College Lectures (episode Black Tudors: Three Untold Stories)