Summer: In the Black Fantastic — imagining new futures through Black art + culture - FAD Magazine

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Summer: In the Black Fantastic — imagining new futures through Black art + culture

Sun Ra and band Courtesy the artist

This summer the Southbank Centre is exploring Black art and popular culture with an extraordinary season of multi-artform events, featuring outdoor art installations, music, literature, poetry and performance as well as a wealth of free-to-attend events. Summer: In the Black Fantastic is a site-wide celebration that takes a deep dive into new ideas and expressions of Black art and popular culture, inspired by the latest Hayward Gallery exhibition In the Black Fantastic, curated by writer and broadcaster Ekow Eshun (29th June – 18th September). It’s the UK’s first major show dedicated to the work of Black artists who use fantastical elements to address racial injustice and explore alternative realities.  

Riverside Terrace by India Roper Evans

“I’m delighted that the Southbank Centre has designed a multi-artform programme in response to the Hayward Gallery’s summer exhibition. 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.”

Ekow Eshun, Curator of In the Black Fantastic


New pop-up art installations, immersive experiences and free exhibitions celebrate ethnically diverse artists who use fantasy in their work.

Hew Locke, Bounty Killer Courtesy the artist

The free outdoor art exhibition, running from Friday 10th June – Sunday 4th September 2022, brings together the work of renowned artists including Hew Locke, Wangechi Mutu and Lina Iris Viktor, who are exhibiting in the Hayward Gallery summer exhibition. Alisha Wormsley’s text-based work, ‘There Are Black People in the Future’, will feature on the Royal Festival Hall building. 

Along the Queen’s Walk, from Wednesday 1st June – Sunday 4th September 2022, visitors will be able to experience two different sound art installations. Peter Adjaye’s Music for Architecture and a futuristic sound installation Dubmorphology’s Emergence, which takes visitors on a journey through a soundscape of ancient drums, future sonics and the voice of pioneering postcolonial historian CLR James. 

Lina Iris Viktor, Syzgy, 2015 Courtesy the artist

There’s also a dynamic programme of artist talks, a packed calendar of public tours and an ongoing outreach programme aimed at local schools. Highlights from these events include: In the Black Fantastic: Artists Talk (30 June, RFH). Exhibition curator Ekow Eshun will be delving into the ideas behind the Hayward Gallery exhibition with three of its featured artists Sedrick Chisom, Cauleen Smith and Lina Iris Viktor. On Friday 15 July in the Purcell Room, Hew Locke discusses his artistic practice in relation to In the Black Fantastic

A parallel programme of film screenings curated by Ekow Eshun will also be hosted at BFI Southbank in July 2022. 

In the Black Fantastic Weekender 

At the centre of the summer is In the Black Fantastic Weekender (15th-17th July), featuring three days of music, poetry, film and talks celebrating the breadth of Black art and culture. Through myth, science fiction, spiritual traditions and Afrofuturism, artists recontextualise the past and invoke a future where Blackness thrives. To open In the Black Fantastic Weekender, special guest curator Inua Ellams presents two poetry events featuring newly commissioned works.

Alisha Wormsley, There Are Black People In The Future Courtesy the artist

Throughout the summer on the Riverside Terrace Stage there will also be free DJ takeovers, live music and performance, with artists exploring how the fantastic can be a gateway to Black creative and cultural liberation. Each weekend in July and August will be programmed by guest curators including multidisciplinary artist Nwando Ebizie; artist collective sxwks; Faggamuffin Bloc Party; creative collective BORN N BREAD; Tarik Elmoutawakil and Rob Jones (Brownton Abbey); performance company Cocoa Butter Club and digital radio station Colourful. 


The Southbank Centre’s venues will be alive with a varied programme of music as part of Summer: In the Black Fantastic, spanning club, cosmic and cutting-edge new talent. 

A bona fide pioneer who radically transformed the sound of electronic music, Jeff Mills presents Tomorrow Comes the Harvest on Sunday 10th July in the Royal Festival Hall as part of a partnership with Fabric. Mills will present his collaborative work with the late Tony Allen, Tomorrow Comes the Harvest, an evocative blend of two great genres firmly rooted in black experience and creativity. 

Jazz Legends, on Saturday 16th July in the Royal Festival Hall, will be a staggering collaboration that celebrates true titans of black sonic experimentation and imagination. Under the direction of Marshall Allen, Sun Ra Arkestra will deliver a powerful performance, drawing on their catalogue for a night of sky-gazing sonic wonder. Also joining the group are jazz drummer, composer, arranger and producer Norman Connors with the Starship Orchestra alongside pianist and keyboardist Bobby Lyle, R&B legend Jean Carne and Prince acolyte Marva King. Finally, Gary Bartz, sax icon and former member of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, tops this tour de force of American jazz legends. 


Masked grime maestro CASisDEAD will set off the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Saturday 16 July with a one-of-a-kind immersive show. This unflinching rapper has worked with a multimedia team called the Dead Team and created his dystopian concept, Dead Corp, which audiences will get to experience this summer at the Southbank Centre. Meanwhile, Alabama’s Pink Siifu will also step into the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer on Saturday 6 August with support from Goya Gumbani and muva of Earth.

As part of Cosmic Quadraphonic (17th July, QEH) audiences will be able to listen to a stellar selection of records and experience how they were meant to be heard. At the heart of this unique audiophile event is the legendary ESL-57 Quad Electrostatic Speaker, courtesy of sound engineer Elan Carebell’s private collection. Records featured include Alice and John Coltrane’s Cosmic Music, Funkadelic’s Cosmic Slop and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.


The multi-art programme includes two very special literature events. 

Writing In the Black Fantastic welcomes Courttia Newland and Michael Salu as they join a panel, chaired by Ellah P. Wakatama, exploring the influence of fantastical traditions in their own books, artworks, films and television productions (15th September, Level 5 RFH Foyer). 

In the Black Fantastic: Live is a specially commissioned multidisciplinary performance which draws on key works from the epic poem Sunjata to Amos Tutuola, incorporating narratives as they mirror a journey from the African continent to the forced migrations of the diaspora, and the dreaming of possible futures as embodied by writers including Toni Morrison and Octavia E. Butler. Based on a text edited by Ellah P. Wakatama, this performance fuses extracts from a wide range of writers in this fantastical tradition. With live performances from actors (cast to be announced) in a staging by Jack McNamara and Tian Brown-Sampson, and specially commissioned music from Space Afrika and visuals from Alistair Mackinnon, this unique event invites audiences on a journey In the Black Fantastic (30th & 31st July, Purcell Room). 

Summer: In the Black Fantastic 10th June – 18th September 2022 MORE.   
In the Black Fantastic Weekender 15th-17th July 2022 MORE.



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