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Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond

November 6th, 2019

In 1981, African-American civil rights leader Queen Mother Moore visited the U.K. on a speaking tour that would have an enduring impact on Black British history. Coming in the wake of London’s Brixton uprisings, her teachings from the movement in the U.S. would go on to inspire the foundation of the Black Cultural Archives (BCA), a living monument to Black history and culture.

To celebrate Black History Month in the UK this October, Google Arts & Culture partnered with the BCA to bring its unique collection of images, artifacts and artworks together online for the first time.

Based in London’s Brixton neighborhood, the Black Cultural Archives is the only national heritage center dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain. With this project, Google Arts & Culture has digitized over 4,000 items from the BCA to help inspire and educate.

The collection features over 30 online stories, with highlights including the Black Women’s movement in the UK, the evolution of Black British dance and a collection of paintings and ceramics by Jamaican-born artist Rudi Patterson. Thanks to our Art Camera technology, you can now study the intricate details of newly digitized artworks in Gigapixel resolution.

This past summer, Google Arts & Culture also partnered with London’s Somerset House to digitize and share stories from its recent exhibition Get Up, Stand Up Now, which explored the past 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond. The partnership culminated in a new collaboration with Samm Henshaw, recognized by YouTube Music UK as a “One To Watch” emerging artist. Inspired by the generations of creative pioneers featured in the Somerset House exhibition, Samm wrote an original track honoring “the motherland” and invited visual artist Wumi Olaosebikan to contribute a creative response to his song through painting.

Samm Henshaw x Somerset House in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture

The theme of the motherland can also be found in another new exhibition on Google Arts & Culture. Everyone in the world can trace their origins back to East Africa, which is sometimes called the cradle of mankind. We’ve collaborated with the National Museums of Kenya in a new online collection that celebrates the heritage and stories of Kenya’s many communities.

Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond
Muthoni Dummer Queenis an inspirational force in Kenya’s music scene. She fuses African drums, hip-hop, reggae/dancehall, and neo-soul/blues to create powerful music that explores her experiences growing up in Nairobi and the spaces that women occupy in the city. (Credit: Margaux Martin)
Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond
The annual Lake Turkana Cultural Festival: One of Kenya’s top tourist attractions is the three-day festival held in June and takes place at Loiyangalani, Marsabit County. This festival features all nomadic communities in Northern Kenya, including the Samburu community. In addition, Tobong’ulore festival is held in Turkana county.
Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond
The Kamba (also known as Akamba) belong to the Bantu community and lived in the eastern region in Kenya. They speak Kikamba language and are closely related in language and culture to the Kikuyu, Embu, Mbeere, and Meru.
Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond
The Isukha(also commonly referred to as Abaisukha) is a sub-community of the larger Luhya (Abaluyia) community in Kenya. They are well known for their traditional Isukuti dance, which is performed by both the Ishukha people and their close relatives the Idaho. It is a rapid dance accompanied by the drumming of the isuki drums.
Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond
In Africa, body ornamentscommunicate ethnic background, social status, age and beliefs. Traditional ornaments appear in various forms, such as earrings, bracelets, armlets, and belts. This beaded collar is strung on making (sisal) thread and worn by little girls and women during ceremonial occasions.
Preserving stories of Black History in the UK and beyond
Mekatilili Wa Menza is said to be one of the earliestKenya’s freedom fighters

This is Google Arts & Culture’s most ambitious project to date in Africa, and lets you explore Kenya across cultures, generations and geography through over 10,500 high resolution photographs, more than 100 expert-curated exhibits and 60 Street Views.

To explore these remarkable stories in more detail, and to discover collections from more than 2,000 museums around the world, visit the Google Arts & Culture app for free either on the web or on iOS or Android.