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The Art of Notting Hill Carnival

Selected by Ezrah

Masquerading: the art of the Notting Hill Carnival exhibition was showcased in 1987 at the Southbank Centre, exploring the intricate practice of creating and displaying the masquerades and costumes which bring colour and vibrancy to Notting Hill every year.

I selected this exhibition as Carnival is a very important aspect of Caribbean culture and being able to express culture through colour, texture and form makes the art of sharing it both an enjoyable and accessible form of education. But Notting Hill Carnival is also an important aspect of London culture – founded by Rhaune Laslett in response to the racially motivated attack of Kelso Cochrane. We have to acknowledge and not forget the struggles faced by marginalised communities both in the past and present.

As the years have progressed, London has become even more multicultural and Notting Hill Carnival has been a living and breathing example of representation. Therefore, looking back nearly 40 years ago, we can see what has changed and what has stayed the same in Carnival.

When looking around the archive, I saw there was a theme of identity and acts of protest/resistance to preserve identity. I think the art of masquerading is very much a part of that theme – showcasing culturally significant pieces in a public space opens them up to criticism and praise, but is also an unapologetic way of expressing a community, especially in the 1980s. It has made me appreciate the collaboration, time and effort put into an event that only is shown for two days in a year.