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24 September 2014
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Washington with his daughter (pic: Anthony Jones)
Washington with his daughter (A Jones)

Once We Were Africans

In this year’s Black History Month, the Black Arts Alliance presents Once We Were Africans, a study of black families who have lived in Manchester for generations. The photographer Anthony Jones told us about it and how your family can be in it.


Once We Were Africans

  • Once We Were Africans runs from Friday 14 October until mid December at the Museum of Science and Industry
  • The aim of the project is to confound the myth that the black communities are a first generation presence in the UK
  • The exhibition will document and celebrate families made up of third, fourth or sixth generation members

How did the project come about?

"A couple of years ago, the Black Arts Alliance (BAA) commissioned me to photograph their membership for an exhibition during Black History Month. The aim was to show the diversity of Black artists in Greater Manchester. The experience was a very rewarding one for me and when this opportunity came up to return and photograph families, I was more than happy to take part."

How is it going?

"At this stage we are still sourcing families, we have several who have already agreed to take part and if there is anyone else who'd like to take part, they should contact BAA."

What's the aim of the exhibition?

Anthony Jones
Anthony Jones

"The BAA statement puts the aim of the exhibition very well; ‘...for many, the sense of an allegiance to just one culture and country does not exist, and that many young people see themselves as both Black and British and rejoice in this hybridity.’

That is a very positive message that we are from a particular background but we are also British. We also have an opportunity to remind ourselves, regardless of our heritage, that family is a key building block for a better society."

Why do you think the myth of black families as first generation families exists?

"There appears to be an idea, one senses, of the 'immigrant community'; if someone 'appears' to be different, they are 'outsiders'. This really isn't the case because people of African descent have, to varying degrees, been 'British' for hundreds of years."

If you think your family is right for Once We Were Africans and you want to get involved, contact the BAA on 0161 832 2276 or by at
email: baa@blackartists.org.uk
last updated: 02/09/05
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