Friday 24 September 2021

The Fabric Of Society

Liz has bought herself a "member plus guest" ticket from the Tate. This is excellent value - it means a member can go in to Tate Modern or Tate Britain any time [free] - plus they can take a guest [free] and they can visit any of the special exhibitions [free] And there is access to the special members' bar [TM] and dining room [TB]...and they can take up to six children! 

Many of the baby groups have yet to restart because of the pandemic - this will be a good way for Liz to take a walk, appreciate the art, and enjoy a good cup of coffee. And as well as pushing Jess in the pram, she can take a friend along too [and Rosie at weekends] This members+ ticket is £10 a month - it would have cost £35 for Liz and me to go to the Rodin exhibition. 

After we had walked all round the Rodin stuff, it was coffee time. The Members' Room has a spectacular view across the Thames. I spent ages looking at the diagram behind Liz which names many of the buildings of note.

The trays are printed with artworks from the collection. I quite liked the lobster on which we had our coffee cups!
After a break, we went back inside and looked at a few more parts of the collection - Liz particularly wanted to show me "The British Library", created in 2014 by Yinka Shonibare, YS has British/Nigerian nationality. 

This room was mind-blowing! 6,328 books, with names printed in gold leaf on 270 of the spines. The books are bound in African wax print fabric, the artist’s signature material. The history of this fabric reveals a complex relationship between colonialism, cultural appropriation and national identity. It was developed in the 19C in the Netherlands as a mass-produced imitation of the batik dyeing process used in Indonesia, a Dutch colony at the time. The cheaper, machine-made textiles were poorly received in Indonesia. In West and Central Africa, however, they were quickly adopted and absorbed into local traditions.

The names on the books are those of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants to this country, both celebrated and lesser-known, who have made significant contributions to British culture and history. Among names such as Hans Holbein, Zadie Smith, and Dame Helen Mirren, the names of those who have opposed immigration also appear, including Nigel Farage and Oswald Mosley. 

This shelf shows a few names I recognised - interesting people with diverse skills and very diverse origins

  • Cy Grant - Guyana - I remember him singing calypsos on TV when I was very young [and voicing Lt. Green on 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons']
  • Suzi Quatro - singer, with Italian/American roots
  • Ken Stott - actor, wonderful in Rebus and the Hobbit, has a Sicilian mother.
  • Bob Geldof - I never knew his grandfather was a Belgian immigrant!
  • Anton Du Bekh - this talented dancer has Hungarian/Spanish parentage but grew up in Kent.

I could have spent hours in this room, looking at the names. There is a website with much more information here Liz suggested it might be a way of using up my Great Stash - I could make covers for all the books on my shelves. I suggested it to Bob who wasn't keen [and pointed out that the extra thickness of the fabric would mean I could accommodate fewer books]

The book jackets list artists, writers, politicians, sportspeople, scientists - and many more. People who have added richness and colour to our culture and history. Many arrived here because their families were originally from British Colonies, others came as refugees fleeing persecution. 

If a piece of artwork is both a feast for the senses, and also truly thought provoking then I think it deserves a place in the Gallery. I loved this!

Whereas this piece didn't move me at all! It is too reminiscent of the stacks of stuff currently in the back garden. 

Thank you Liz for the Tate Trip - brilliant!!


  1. What a fun visit! I really liked the book exhibition! Thank you for sharing your visit with us.

    1. I wish you could have seen it in person Bless, I know you'd have appreciated the graceful hands and feet, so beautifully modelled

  2. The Books are amazing -what fantastic colours

    1. This glorious sunny weather makes me yearn for a length of the fabric to make a dress!

  3. Oh, I would love to see that book exhibition- I would stare for hours!! I did wonder why African waxed fabrics resemble Indonesian Batik and now I know!!!

    1. I knew you'd be interested Kezzie, having travelled to that part of the world (I still wear the blue dress made with the batik fabric you sent me in 2014)

  4. Oh those multicoloured covered books look glorious!! But I couldn't have used that lobster tray at all, I would have been rifling through the stack for a friendlier less phobia inducing one instead :-)

    1. Sorry if the tray was disturbing! Other artwork trays are available []

  5. I too could spend a long time in 'The British Library' exhibit, even if only to gaze at the fabrics.
    My son is very into African waxed fabric tunics in warm weather, he's 6ft 4 in tall and a big build, and they look wonderful on him. I suppose some people may call it cultural appropriation, but it's actually flattery, he finds them cool and comfy.

  6. Love the library with endless, gloriously colourful books!


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