Born in 1954 on the East African island of Zanzibar, Lubaina Himid grew up in Britain, where she played an important role in the Black Arts Movement of the 1980s and 1990s. For a long time, she was known only to art insiders. That changed in 2017, when she became the first black woman to receive the Turner Prize.
While major themes such as slavery, racism, colonialism and the African diaspora form the historical background of Himid's work, her paintings, sculptures and installations often narrate episodes from everyday life. With their bright colours and graphic style, they recall both early Pop Art and the hand-painted shop signs of West Africa. At the same time, they refuse to accept the clichéd representation of black people in media and art. "I see myself as a painter, but also as an activist," Himid says.
The year before her Turner Prize win, the Deutsche Bank Collection acquired paintings on paper from Himid's series "Dreaming has a Share in History" (2016). In 2023, Himid's works from the Deutsche Bank Collection will be on view in the exhibition "The Struggle of Memory" at the PalaisPopulaire in Berlin. In the new UK headquarters of Deutsche Bank in London, a conference room will be dedicated to the artist.
Reclaiming identities and reframing perspectives
The structure of the paintings is based on colourful cloths, the 'kangas', which are worn as skirts or dresses or draped over the body in many African countries. Typical of these cloths are ornamental frames with motifs such as palm trees or flowers that enclose symbolic texts, sayings, prayers or mottos.
Instead of the usual slogans, Himid uses quotes from activists and writers such as James Baldwin and Audre Lorde – or, in this case, the German philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) – on her kanga works. Himid symbolically framed his quote, "Dreaming has a share in history," with eggs from which something might hatch. This is to be understood as having a double meaning. Benjamin meant by "dreams" utopias, but also the monsters that the "sleep of reason" produces, the horrors of war, exploitation and fascism. Himid thus points to the opposite of dreaming: that we must stay awake or wake up, that we must pay attention – instead of sleeping through the history that is coming our way.
About this article series
This article forms part of a special series celebrating Deutsche Bank’s 20 years as Global Lead Partner of Frieze art fairs, taking a closer look at one of 20 artists we have collaborated with and whose work features in the Deutsche Bank Collection.
Deutsche Bank's commitment to art and culture
Deutsche Bank is the Global Lead Partner for Frieze art fairs, with 2023 marking the 20th year of the partnership. As part of its Art & Culture commitment, Deutsche Bank has supported and collected the work of cutting-edge, international artists for more than 40 years. A global leader in corporate art programmes, the bank also runs an Artist of the Year programme, as well as its own cultural centre in Berlin, the PalaisPopulaire. All initiatives are based on the strong belief that engagement with art has a positive impact, not only on clients and staff but also on the communities in which the bank operates. Thus further collaborations such as the Deutsche Bank Frieze Los Angeles Film Award in the United States, The Art of Conversation in Italy, the Frieze x Deutsche Bank Emerging Curators Fellowship in the United Kingdom, and the digital platform Art:LIVE, create access to contemporary art for people all around the world. Discover more here.
Main image: Lubaina Himid © Photo: Magda Stawarska
Deutsche Bank Art & Culture