Making the invisible, visible. During Black History Month 2019, Solent Showcase Gallery collaborated with community leaders, Don John and Dr Abdoulie Sanneh to develop a commission for Southampton, telling an unseen story of Black history in the city. As part of the Zimbabwean Society's annual celebrations, artist Olivia Twist was commissioned by the Gallery to create new illustrations based on a little-known story of Southampton’s part in Zimbabwe’s history. Working in consultation and collaboration with local communities and using archival material, Olivia Twist retold the story of a trip to Southampton and London in 1889 by the emissaries of King Lobengula of Matabele at a key point in the history of the Matabeleland, of Zimbabwe, and Cecil Rhodes’ mining company, the British South Africa Company. The artwork was displayed in the gallery window and is now looking for a permanent site in the city for display.
The intention was to share interesting stories about Southampton that are not widely acknowledged. These stories form part of the rich tapestry of Black histories across the UK and need to inform and shape our experience and perception of the city of Southampton.
Olivia Twist is an illustrator from east London who graduated from the Royal College of Art with an MA in Visual Communication. The key threads which can be found in her work are place and overlooked narratives. She worked with The United Voices of Africa Association and Dr Blessed Ngwenya on an historical story, written by Dr Ngwenya, that links Southampton to the colonisation story of South Africa in the 1880s.
The collaboration came from Solent Showcase Gallery's and Solent University's involvement in The United Voices of Africa Association’s commemorations of Zimbabwean history in 2018, and the commission resulted in the Zimbabwean Society requesting the University to host the Zimbabwean Documentary Archives.
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