– Spring/Summer 2017

'How the political world crashes in on my personal everyday': Lubaina Himid's Conversations and Voices: Towards an Essay About Cotton.com

Griselda Pollock

Lubaina Himid, Naming the Money, 2004. Installation view, Hatton Gallery, Newcastle. Photograph: Mark Pinder. Courtesy Hatton Gallery, Newcastle University (Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

Patterns are not neutral. They are words, signals and whole sentences, signing different moods, saying different periods. – Lubaina Himid, 20161

The language of Lubaina Himid is a language of conversations, interventions, repositionings and patterns; negotiations of pasts and presents. Her work balances the mournful recognition of the annihilating force of racism in its everyday-but-relentless work of effacement and non-recognition, and the indomitable but tender evocations of the presence and agency of Black women. Himid entered my consciousness around 1984–85, when Rozsika Parker and I were writing our book Framing Feminism: Art and

  1. Except where noted, quotations from Lubaina Himid are taken from my conversations with the artist in August 2016.

  2. Hogarth painted a series of six pictures between 1743–45 titled Marriage à-la-mode (A Fashionable Marriage), depicting the upper classes during the eighteenth century.

  3. Frantz Fanon, ‘The Act of Blackness’, Black Skin: White Masks (1952, trans. Charles Lam Markmann), London: Pluto Press, 1986, p.112.

  4. First installed in Rochdale Art Gallery in 1992 and at the Southbank Centre in London.

  5. It first came to Leeds in 1995, where it was the centrepiece of the first Feminist Arts and Histories Network Conference at the University of Leeds.

  6. See my ‘Back to Africa: From Natal to natal in the locations of Memory’, Journal of Visual Arts Practice, vol.5, no.1-2, 2006, pp.49–72.

  7. See http://lubainahimid.uk/portfolio/inside-the-invisible/ (last accessed on 13 December 2016).

  8. ‘Pattern’, Oxford English Dictionary, 2017, available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pattern (last accessed on 31 January 2017).

  9. Cotton.com was commissioned by an academic group of historians of Manchester as part of an interdisci-plinary AHRC project on urban history and memory. The CUBE building had been a textile showroom, probably displaying rolls of fabric, hanging in great flows or broken into samples. That memory was invoked in the formation of Himid’s installed paintings.

  10. This work has been carefully and deeply studied in terms of its textiles’ meanings and its visuality by Claire Pajaczkowska. Alan Rice has written fully on its complex relationship to the political and social history of Manchester, King Cotton and the suffering of the Manchester millworkers during the cotton famine. Both offer profound analyses which I will not rehearse here. See C. Pajaczkowska, ‘Urban Memory/Suburban Oblivion’, in Mark Crinson et al., Urban Memory: History and Amnesia in the Modern City, London: Routledge, 2005, pp.23–45; and A. Rice, ‘The Cotton that Connects the Cloth that Binds: Memorialising Manchester’s Civil War from Abe’s statue to Lubaina Himid’s Cotton.com’, Creating Memorials, Building Identities: The Politics of Memory in the Black Atlantic, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010, pp.81–101.