‘TRIBES: Matabeleland to Staffordshire’ Exhibition



Kwanzaa Collective UK* and Appetite have partnered to launch a new month-long exhibition in Newcastle Town Centre titled Tribes: Matabeleland to Staffordshire. 


The exhibition, which will showcase the art of Black and Brown artists living and working in Staffordshire, is part of a cultural exchange with artists in Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. And so, as Tribes opens to the public in Newcastle Common on the High Street from 4 October to 5 November, it will also be running concurrently in Matabeleland. 


Artworks on display will include photography, film and digital painting reflecting on the theme of cultural heritage and documenting aspects of rich African culture such as body art, ceremonial dress, beadwork and piercings, their practice and relevance today.


Nom Ncube, a Staffordshire-raised Zimbabwean photojournalist and artist exhibiting in the show, sheds light on what to expect from the shown work: Tribes shines a light on the rituals, practices, ceremonies, and styles of some of the tribes in Zimbabwe, whilst exploring how what has been inherited from previous generations is being preserved or re-imagined.” 


Work by the Staffordshire artists will also explore lived experience of how their African cultural identity informs their life in the UK. 


Gabriella Gay, poet and chair of Kwanzaa Collective UK*, explains the aims of the exhibition: “One of our goals is to build a bridge between the Black British diaspora and Black Africans so they can exchange ideas on Blackness. To have a dialogue on how we express our identity through our cultures and add to the images that help us to continue to reimagine Blackness. So, to have representations of Bakalanga, Tsonga, Xhosa and Ndebele people from Matabeleland in the same space as representations that explore Black identity in the UK is incredible for the artists and our intergenerational community. I can’t wait to hear what people have learnt and the conversations they will engage in.” 


One question the collective is hoping that visitors to the exhibition will engage with is around what tribal cultural practices have been handed down to them, or maybe even disappeared within recent generations. And there will be a community pinboard for people to share their own stories or photographs of Africa. 


Gabriella is also curating a series of artist residencies and workshops that will run alongside the Tribes exhibition as part of the wider Africa 54 arts programme, which explores and celebrates the history, culture, fashion and art of the 54 countries of Africa. Visitors to Appetite’s flagship Big Feast arts festival in the City Centre this August may have seen some of the collective in a takeover of the Piccadilly Stage as part of Africa 54. 


Throughout October, Newcastle Common in Astley Walk will host visual artists including Daby Obiechefu and William Attieku Ntiamoah in residence, where you will have the chance to meet them and have a chat while they produce pieces responding to the themes and feedback from the Tribes exhibition.  


During half term, other Staffordshire-based artists will be providing opportunities for families to get involved with workshops featuring musician Bruce Ncube, stone sculptor Thomas Ndhlebe, and painter Laure Mae Williams. 


Appetite Director Gemma Thomas says:  “We’re totally inspired by the work of the Kwanzaa Collective UK in developing the ambitious programme of work: Africa 54. Tribes is an exciting example of how ambition and global connectivity can be relevant to our area, now and in its history. We’re excited to see what this international exchange will bring to Newcastle Town Centre as we continue our project Newcastle Common in two previously un-used shops. Please come and join us to see the work and connect to the two fabulous artists based in the shops for two weeks during the run! See you there!” 


You can view the Tribes: Matabeleland to Staffordshire exhibition 11am-3pm every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday at Newcastle Common, 23 High Street, Newcastle Town Centre from 4 October to 5 November. 


Residencies take place at 12-14 Astley Walk, Newcastle Town Centre, while artwork produced will be displayed from 3-5 November. 


All events are free to attend and do not need to be booked in advance. For more details of Tribes: Matabeleland to Staffordshire, residencies, workshops and other Appetite events, visit the What’s On page at appetite.org.uk.