More in March
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First Thursdays is making a return after being on hold since last November. Join our walk through the East End, for a 45-minute stroll encompassing three galleries and a public monument. This month’s recommended route takes up the themes of dreams and emancipation. As the Gazan-born Palestinian poet Saleem Al Naffar said in his poem ‘O My Lovers’: “In such mysterious ages, right’s clarity arises in us, giving powers to our voices for dreams, and days that make us brothers.”

Speaking of dreams and empowering voices, as part of our Whitechapel Lates, you will have the chance to visit without any admission fee the captivating main show by Zineb Sedira: “Dreams Have No Titles” an immersive installation comprising film, sculpture, photography, and performance. The exhibition intricately weaves together the artist’s biography with activist films produced across France, Algeria, and Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. Additionally, you can catch the film screening of ‘Les Mains Libres‘ by Ennio Lorenzini (screening every Thursday at 7 pm in Gallery 2), a rare film shot in Algeria a few years after the Revolution.

The First Thursdays route will start with the Shaheed Minar, a public monument situated within Altab Ali Park, commemorating the martyrs of the Bengali Language Movement of 1952. The Minar serves as a tribute to those who advocated for the official recognition of Bengali as their native tongue. It was crafted as a smaller replica of the sculpture designed by Bangladeshi artist Hamidur Rahman, erected in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1963. Its design depicts a mother figure embracing her martyred sons, symbolizing resilience and unity. A visit to this historic landmark provides an essential step into the cultural history of East London and its Bengali community.

The second stop will be at Rich Mix for CUTS, an exhibition bringing together a collection of responsive sketches by Gazan-native Palestinian artist Malak Mattar. The show is the result of a eight-week residency that Malak held at An Effort Art where she created more than 100 pieces in direct response to the tragic events of the unfolding war on Gaza. In a departure from her previous vibrant and colourful style, this exhibition reveals a raw and uncompromising emotional reaction. The exhibition is part of the Arab Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival, the UK’s contemporary multi-arts festival dedicated to showcasing Arab women’s artistic work.

From there, the tour will continue to Autograph for two exhibitions. The first one will be Niger-Delta / Future-Cosmos by Wilfred Ukpong. Ukpong creates compelling and poetic reflections on the crisis of environmental degradation and exploitation in the Niger Delta. Drawing on historical and personal archives, ecology politics and indigenous environmentalism, his work demonstrates how artmaking can be used as a tool for social empowerment and to confront continued, aggressive colonial practices. The works in the exhibition are all set in the Niger Delta, Ukpong’s homeland. Driven by a profound desire to effect change, the artist worked with more than two hundred young people from marginalised, oil-producing communities to collectively address the historical and environmental issues in the oil-rich region.

The second show at Autograph is Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain of Mexican-British artist Mónica Alcázar-Duarte, whose work, affirming the value and survival of her ancestors’ indigenous knowledge, examines western society’s obsession with speed, expansion and resource accumulation at a time when ecological disaster looms. The evocative photographs at the core of Digital Clouds Don’t Carry Rain are set amongst the dying trees of Derbyshire, home of the Industrial Revolution. In these self-portraits, the artist mimics poses from 18th-century Casta paintings, a genre of art made in Mexico during Spanish colonialism to illustrate racist social hierarchies – classifying mixed race individuals within a ‘caste’ system.

The last stop will be at Filet Space for Stuck in this idiots Eden, a sculptural painting installation by Jerome. Jerome’s five-year itinerant body of work, “Action Black,” takes on a new shape in response to FILET’s spatial situation. “Action Black” accumulates layers of inscriptions from protests, dinners, streets, catwalks, gigs, and exhibitions. Paint and words are unstuck and restuck to become part of Jerome’s paintings on canvas. At FILET, the works come together in a sculptural form that surrounds the viewer—stuck, suspended, informed yet emancipated from the expectations of painting’s stylistic forms.

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