An engagement with the hunger for African American pride, uniformity and autonomy in a turbulent and dramatic period of time.

The Tate Modern currently presents “Soul of a Nation’. This exhibition covers 2 decades of creative response following turbulent political and cultural times in the early 1960’s. As the American Civil Rights Movement peaked, so did the nations dreams to no longer judge by the colour of skin but the content of character, as proudly represented and voiced by Dr Martin Luther King. ‘Soul of a Nation’ not only questions how we should respond to this period as an audience but also how literal this work should or was expected to be. How the artists present work through their own individual creative response towards assumptive Black ideology or true Black Art as expression is incredibly captivating and absorbing. Taking time to really process each perspective from these featured artists certainly made me consider how unique and personal such a topic can be. When a focus is so historically and culturally significant, everyone’s viewpoint will be very individual and can be influenced by heritage, home, familiarity, understanding and experience in the very simplest terms. This exhibition is loud, this expressive art voices itself in an incredibly moving way that stirs the mind.

A dozen rooms present artworks of different disciplines or from groups of artists from different cities nationwide. Varied, expressive and often shocking, the exhibition explores and surfaces what it meant to be a black artist during this time. Feelings of interrogation, exploration and fascination overwhelm amongst varying emotional responses between each artwork. Literal versus abstract, each piece has a story of so similar yet so unique.

During my visit and amongst the rich abundance of displays stood two works in particular. Study for the Wall of Respect By Jeff Donaldson and Revolutionary 1972 By Wadsworth Jarrell. However contrasting in their style they both stand as strong responses to their reaction and representation.

Study for the Wall of Respect By Jeff Donaldson

Meticulously detailed painting by African American rights warrior Jeff Donaldson could do no less than overpower senses. Study for the Wall of Respect plays clear influence to the creative Africobra movement. The movement that focused on exposing communities facing racial and economic injustice by offering new ideas through art of which Donaldson was a founding member. His abstract approach generates response from every mind in a very organic sense where the assumptive reliance of relation, knowledge or personal preference is unnecessary. This piece is calm, considered yet moving with underlying strength. Much like the effects of music in many ways. Donaldson’s love of Jazz is apparent in his work. His obsessive attention to detail yet the fluidity of his works overall impression contributes towards a sense of movement and subtle yet powerful attitude.

Revolutionary 1972 By Wadsworth Jarrell

The Portrait Revolutionary 1972 by Wadsworth Jarrell features a figure formed from Afro Constructed text exploding in vibrant, electronic colours including words such as ‘struggle’ and ‘resist’. As another Africobra founding member his work illustrates the same strength and expression but with an energetic and exuberant handwriting. An interesting contrast against Donaldson’s style of practice where a strong visual passion through colour combinations and linear style dominate a space. One of the far more literal pieces in the exhibition, this artwork still generates the same level of consideration, thought and desire to understand the artist and their focus in detail.

These selections are to by no means imply that this exhibition will show you more of the same. Soul of a Nation is an extensive presentation incorporating vast mediums and archive to represent the racial challenges, unstable times and Black power in the form of Black art from the 1960’s.

This exhibition is showing until October 22nd so move fast whilst it is still there.

Don’t miss out, see further information here!

★★★☆☆