Humour as Black Experience exhibition held at Chatham House

The event, held as part of Black History Month, explored what it means to laugh in a way that carries cultural resonance unique to the black lived experience.

News release
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Press Office

Over 150 members, staff, senior black professionals and other guests attended a special Black History Month event at Chatham House on 31 October, featuring artistic contributions from political cartoonists, illustrators, and photographers.

The exhibition, organized by Chatham House’s Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Working Group, showcased work that extends the reading and viewing of black life away from trauma, violence and stereotypes, exploring instead what it means to laugh in a way that carries cultural resonance unique to the black lived experience.

The exhibition included the work of photographers Vanley Burke OBE, Sama Kai, Audrey Albert and Karis Beaumont; political cartoonist Samuel Ojo; illustrations from Jasmine Thompson, Joan West and Damilola Ohkoya; and work by mixed media artist Adeola Dewis.

The evening also included a short screening of Dance for Change, a documentary set in Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi, directed by Lily Colfox.

The event received rave reviews from all in attendance, with many attending saying it was the pinnacle of their Chatham House experience.

Curators Joseph Osayande, Nelly Ating, and Sherece Rainford said:

‘We began curating this event by asking, are we too loud when we laugh, do we disguise pain behind the laughter, or are we made to use laughter as a tool for political resistance?

‘In many forms or manners, events that are not funny have been co-opted by comedians, and satirists who have approached humour in the digital age.

‘Since 2020, the black experience has shifted in waves. Conversations around identity, race, migration, and being black in Britain have continued to persist in our public spheres.

‘The use of words like “Africa is a Country” and many more have been appropriated by art historians, comedians, and skit-makers, turning these prejudices on their heads against their original intention of mockery.

‘This exhibition brought together work by exciting black artists from around the UK to make a dazzling and thought-provoking event.

‘We would like to thank all those who participated in the creation of this wonderful exhibition and all those who attended.’