Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Hipster Nativity


I was delighted when the Hipster Nativity was brought to my attention in a CNBC article. Really works for me,  especially with its black magus and the kings looking very cool on their Segways and dark glasses to protect their eyes from that bright star!


But it was not without controversy Casey Wright, co-founder of Modern Nativity the folks who make the Hipster Nativity told CNBC "We have quickly found out that this product is very polarizing. It's usually, 'this is hilarious, I need one,' or 'this is sacrilegious, I hope you burn in hell,' and almost nothing in between those two extremes,"

The default composition for the Nativity dates back to Francis of Assis in 1223. He used what was around him to tell the story of the birth of Jesus so what’s wrong with telling that same story today but using images and ideas from 2016 rather than 1223? New take on an old story - love it! 


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Thirteenth Century Black Presence in New Migration Syllabus Site


Delighted to see my contribution on the black presence in thirteenth century England is now live on the Runnymede Trust site Our Migration Story - The making of Britain in the Migration stories AD43 -1500 section. The work is  based the  black presence in the Domesday Abbreviato which I have written about elsewhere in this blog


The opportunity to write the piece came about through my work as a co-covener of the What’s Happening Black BritishHistory (WHBBH) series of workshops for the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. I was invited along with several other historians to take part in an initiative by the Runnymede Trust in response to the new curriculum - OCR new History GCSEs  is Migration To Britain c. 1000 to c. 2010, which will be taught from September 2016.

The Runnymede Trust activity was itself an AHRC migration history funded project, led by the Universities of Cambridge and Manchester and supported by the OCR GCSE examination board.

The new course meet with some hostility from the Tory press and several eminent yet conservative historians who accused the syllabus of being  an indoctrination , a dangerous dogma written in response to demands for political correctness and that the course was rewriting history which was  a total distortion and it’s outrageous.

Nothing could be further from the truth the syllabus is an attempt to as Mike Goddard, Head of History at OCR said:

[To explore] and understanding the constant shifts in the British population in  a rigorous and exciting new academic topic for young people in schools to be able to study in detail for the first time. We can’t understand Britain economically, culturally or politically, if we don’t understand our relationship with the world. Migration into and out of Britain is and always has been a central part of this relationship.
Through my work at WHBBH I  had the pleasure of meeting several of those involved in creating the syllabus and writing the books to support the classwork. I can confirm that ideas such as indoctrination, political correctness were not on their minds or part of their agenda.  They were looking to give a new generation of school children a  fair and rigorous review of  where the inhabitants of these islands came from over the years.

The first of the two GCSE Migration books is now out: published by Hodder Education.








Monday, 22 February 2016

Fowokan's "Young Garvey" Video


My introduction to Marcus Garvey like so many others was thru Bob Marley’s Redemption Song lyrics quoting the great man:

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery none but ourselves can feee our minds. 

For me this was about the individual freeing herself or himself to be what ever they wanted to be. It was my friend the sculptor Fowokan who introduced me to the Marcus Garvey behind these words a unique individual with outstanding leadership skills with his back to Africa ideals and a belief in Pan Africanism.

Fowokan’s video of his making of Young Garvey is the result of three years of hard work condensed into just over twelve minutes. He tracks his progress in his studio  from  from the manipulation of the first lump of clay right through to the mould making and casting

Fowokan not only speaks and writes from personal experience about Garvey but also thru Young Garvey brings Garvey to life making Garvey and his words real and relevant to us today.

Friday, 12 February 2016

7 min Toussaint Louverture Print at the V&A


I know this is off topic as it's 'not my period' but I was offered the chance to give a seven minute chat on a piece with a black connection from the splendid new Europe 1600-1815 Galleries collection. I choose an 1802 hand coloured print of Toussaint Louverture from the V&A Collection. You can read a transcript of my presentation here.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Why we need to keep printing the Acts of Parliament on Vellum


Vellum making a 2000 year process
What do paper, tape cassettes, CD ROMs, photographic paper, 35mm slides, hard drives, USB sticks all have in common as storage media? Answer : they will all fail as permanent storage media over time, for one reason or another. There is one media that will out last them all - vellum.

Vellum’s what the Magna Carta was written on in 1215 and it’s what the laws of England are written on today, 2115, 900 years later. In fact all the laws of the UK - Acts of Parliament - since 1497 have been printed on vellum.

Vellum has been a medium of record since Bronze age.

There is a move a foot in the House of Commons to save money in Parliament by moving to printing on high quality “archival paper” in order to save £27,000 - the difference between the cost of printing on  paper and printing and vellum. We need to protest now against this short sighted move.

Unrolling the 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll printed on vellum
with images just as bright today as they were in 1511
Section from the 60foot 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll - drawn on vellum
Vellum printed documents are for the ages. I speak as one who has had the pleasure of handling at first hand the 700 year old Domesday Abbreviato, it survived only because it was written  on vellum, further I was allowed to handle it as vellum documents benefit from the natural oils in human hands (unlike paper!).

Vellum is the natural media for documents to last the ages. Vellum can last 2,000 years plus while “archival paper” is only 250 years without an expensive air conditioned environment to ensure. So we should fight to keep vellum.

Vellum's been on TV and Radio indecent weeks -  listen into Jeremy Vine where Paul Wright from Crowley the last remaining vellum manufacturer will be talking, Paul has already made the case for vellum on BBC2's Newsnight.

We need to  Paul and Crowley’s to continue to have our Acts of Parliament printed on Vellum.

Write to you MP and talk part in the petition to have the MPs reconsider.

On line Petition to save vellum
To finish -  Why do we use vellum for some documents?  (Thanks to Paul Wright ) We use vellum for the same reasons  we use Bronze, Silver and Gold medals in the Olympics - we consider these things to be important , worthy of note so we use the finest materials available.

Sign the petition, write to your MP let’s keep the Acts of Parliament on vellum for future generations!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

The Black Tudors' Trail at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge, Epping Forest

Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge (1589)
Visiting the Black Tudors’ trail  at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Epping (Thu 1 Oct - Sun 1 Nov 2015) Forest was a fun day out with my friend and colleague Dr Miranda Kaufmann.

The fun started at the door where  we were greeted by a very welcoming & cheerful volunteer who invited us  to don Tudor caps to get into the spirit - which did and did!


The Black Tudors' trail consisted of cheerful, bright caricature cartoons by Joe Lillington accompanied by text by Sophie Lillington. To her great pleasure Miranda identified text coming from her web site - Miranda's book Black Tudors is due out next year. There were also quotes from  Onykea’s work on the subject - Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England Their Presence Status and Origins, which I have reviewed in this blog.


The brightness and cheerfulness of  the Black Tudor images by Joe contrasted sharply with the only human figure portrayed in the house that of the figure of a servant in front of the fire. His role wasn’t clear - maybe his job was to keep the fire - but his filthy, ragged appearance and his dirty, grey cloths for footwear indicated he was not as happy as Joe’s smiling Black Tudors.

Peter Blackmore - Black Tudors' Trail Image
The only evidence we have for the actual existence of any Black Tudors are fleeting references found in official records of the day. For example Peter Blackmore that record is a 1522 military survey in the parish of St Petrock in Exeter, where he is listed as an ‘alien ….a moren born…..billman able for war  …who is worth nil in goods’ This brief, sketchy bio is expanded thru informed fabrication & conjecture based on the lives his contemporaries of whom more is known by  the exhibition’s researcher and illustrator to create Peter Blackmore’s image.

View from top floor
The building itself was well worth the visit for its spectacular views of Epping Forest. One could easily imagine the Queen and her entourage enjoying viewing  the hunt from the high vantage of the Lodge gives with its panoramic views of the forest below.

Dressing up 
On the first floor there was the opportunity to dress up in Tudor clothes. An excellent idea, as along with caps really put one in the mood as well as being a lot of fun.

Sadly, this fun day out for Black History Month 2015 is not as well known as it should be as Miranda and I only found out by accident, perhaps more could have been done on the web and through social media. Also there was no Black Tudor related merchandise on sale in the gift shop to support the event, sales opportunities missed perhaps.

Having said that in the space allocated a very reasonable introduction to the Black Tudors the exhibition was fun and its setting is very original. I shall certainly take Sophie up on her request for contributions to next year’s Black Tudors’ Trail.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The St Maurices at Magdeberg Cathederal


Finally made it to see the original St Maurice in Magdeburg Cathedral.

The post I  wrote was far too long so I've given the visit a page all of its own here on the BlackMagusBlog - The St Maurices at Magdeberg Cathederal