Wearing the cloak of a critical history painter, Lubaina Himid challenges western hegemony by focusing the lens back over the history and identity of Black people. The real-life stories she explores leap from the ordinary to the famous, using a variety of mediums: cut-outs, collages and installations. Through subject and medium she creates a vibrant conversation that consequently highlights the inconsistencies within society, ascribing value to the contribution of Black people to Europe’s culture over the past several hundred years.
Allow Your Friends to Meet Your Enemies (2011) is part of Kangas from the Lost Sample Book, a series of diptychs for which Himid drew inspiration from the Whitworth Gallery’s collection of twentieth-century East African kangas, as well as from her own. The paintings echo the various patterns and motifs of the textiles, and feature invented slogans that reference Swahili sayings found on traditional kangas; in this case ‘Allow Your Friends to Meet Your Enemies’. A collaged portrait accompanies the painting, imagining the woman who might have owned the kanga. The Kangas series explore the historical relationship between the Greater Manchester textile industry and its East African wearers, and hence address the movements of cultures and commodities, including its related trauma.
As Oldham is situated in the Greater Manchester area, Allow Your Friends to Meet Your Enemies has a close connection with the Gallery’s locality. Moreover, with the acquisition of this work, Gallery Oldham aims to explore challenging issues around racial, ethnic and cultural identity and to attract new audiences.
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 2016/17