Rembrandt’s Blacks

Black people in Rembrandt’s art.The portrayal of Africans in the Dutch Golden Age of the 17th century. This talk examines Rembrandt’s role in that period

About this Event

Michael Ohajuru presents a personal view of the ground breaking Rembrandt’s Blacks exhibition now on at the Rembrandt House Museum, Amsterdam, revealing a multicultural 17th century Amsterdam, what that black presence signified then and how that it relates to today.

The image of the Black changed throughout the Dutch Golden Age of the seventeenth century from the celebrated image of the two Black men by Rembrandt to become marginalized figures in Dutch paintings.

In 1999 renowned historian Simon Schama saw it as ‘truly amazing is that Rembrandt should have access to African models’ in seventeenth century Amsterdam of the Dutch Golden Age , today we thanks to the work of the cultural historian Mark Ponte we know that there was community of Black folk there at the time , some even living on same street as Rembrandt.

This presentation examines the changes that took place in the image and how it developed over the period. Revealing how and why the image of the Black changed and how its changes reverberate to day with the Dutch response to its ignored, most times forgotten Black past as it is brought into focus by Black Lives Matter movement.

About the Speaker

The Image of the Black in London Galleries (IBLG) highlights the black presence to be found in the national art collections in London.

There is a black presence in many of the works in the nation’s collections in London. That presence takes many different forms; blacks are depicted as musicians, as kings, as slaves, as servants, as saints and sometime just as people and even as artist in their own right. The Black Presence is most cases is explicit though not immediately and sometimes the presence has to teased out, IBLG seeks to make that Black presence better known.

The image of the Black in London Galleries was inspired by three things:

1 The Image of the Black in Western Art

The Image of the Black in Western Art is the seminal multi volume work of images of people of African descent from early Greek to the current day, it was an attempt by an American philanthropist to address the absence of the black figure in Western canonical art at time of racial unrest and injustice. It continues to be updated; the latest volume (2017) addresses Asian and African art.

2 Temi Odumosu’s work at the National Gallery

Temi produced a list of all the works in the National Gallery’s collection she could find which had a black presence. That list was available at the information desk and on line, both are now (2017) sadly no longer available. That deleted web presence now can be reached via the WayBack machine here.

3 Art Historical London

I was asked by Art Historical London following a recommendation by the folks at Black History Walks in April 2017, to give a tour of the black presence in a London national collection. Up to that time (thanks to Janet Browne at the V&A) I had worked on the black presences in the Victoria and Albert museum, in order to deliver the National Gallery talk as required I had to expand my data base of images which is presented here as IBLG.

Michael Ohajuru

Senior Fellow Institute of Commonwealth Studies

about.me/michaelohajuru

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Reviews of Black History Walks, Tours & Talks

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Extremely informative and made it seem all really relevant

I just wanted to let you know that the students REALLY enjoyed the tour yesterday. I polled them in class and everyone overwhelmingly had positive things to say. They particularly enjoyed how you incorporated modern day information into the tour. They said it was extremely informative and made it seem all really relevant. And today it was great listening to them as they walked around central London, noticing some of the things you'd pointed out. So, your work was very well received. Well done and thank you!

Lori Tharps, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Journalism, Temple University, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T12:12:20+01:00

Lori Tharps, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Journalism, Temple University, USA

I just wanted to let you know that the students REALLY enjoyed the tour yesterday. I polled them in class and everyone overwhelmingly had positive things to say. They particularly enjoyed how you incorporated modern day information into the tour. They said it was extremely informative and made it seem all really relevant. And today it was great listening to them as they walked around central London, noticing some of the things you'd pointed out. So, your work was very well received. Well done and thank you!

Best element of the trip

You may hear this often, but many of my students named your tour as the best element of the trip last time.

Nancy Comerau, Assistant Professor of English, Ohio Wesleyan University, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T12:28:53+01:00

Nancy Comerau, Assistant Professor of English, Ohio Wesleyan University, USA

You may hear this often, but many of my students named your tour as the best element of the trip last time.

Absolutely brilliant lecture and walk yesterday

Absolutely brilliant lecture and walk yesterday. Students were really energized. Thanks so much.

Bill Mullen, Professor of English and American Studies, Purdue University, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:27:53+01:00

Bill Mullen, Professor of English and American Studies, Purdue University, USA

Absolutely brilliant lecture and walk yesterday. Students were really energized. Thanks so much.

A rich and detailed learning experience

Our guide's encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and his passion for black history, made for a rich and detailed learning experience. He was friendly and engaging, frequently involving the students in dialogue and relating his points to places and subjects that are familiar to them. The students were fascinated throughout and learned a great deal. We recommend this tour most highly!

Rebecca Whisnant, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Director of Women's and Gender Studies, University of Dayton, USA

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:28:21+01:00

Rebecca Whisnant, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Director of Women's and Gender Studies, University of Dayton, USA

Our guide's encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and his passion for black history, made for a rich and detailed learning experience. He was friendly and engaging, frequently involving the students in dialogue and relating his points to places and subjects that are familiar to them. The students were fascinated throughout and learned a great deal. We recommend this tour most highly!

The children talk about it for a long time afterwards

I would really like to book two black history walk dates around St Pauls and the Barbican for our two year 6 classes. We have done them for the last two years and the children always learn such a lot and talk about it for a long time afterwards.

Helen Davies, Head of Year 6, John Scurr School, Tower Hamlets

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:29:08+01:00

Helen Davies, Head of Year 6, John Scurr School, Tower Hamlets

I would really like to book two black history walk dates around St Pauls and the Barbican for our two year 6 classes. We have done them for the last two years and the children always learn such a lot and talk about it for a long time afterwards.

I could not have asked for a better supplement to my Sociology course on race, identity, and culture

Thank you for organizing a wonderful walking tour for my students. You are incredibly knowledgeable, and it was such a joy to hear your take on things. The students loved this field trip. You did an excellent job relating the history, culture, and social contributions of Black and Afro-Caribbean people in a fun and lively way while still emphasizing the seriousness and importance of this often overlooked aspect of British life. I could not have asked for a better supplement to my Sociology course on race, identity, and culture. I really appreciate you helping make the class so special and look forward to arranging another.

William Force, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Western New England University

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:31:05+01:00

William Force, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Western New England University

Thank you for organizing a wonderful walking tour for my students. You are incredibly knowledgeable, and it was such a joy to hear your take on things. The students loved this field trip. You did an excellent job relating the history, culture, and social contributions of Black and Afro-Caribbean people in a fun and lively way while still emphasizing the seriousness and importance of this often overlooked aspect of British life. I could not have asked for a better supplement to my Sociology course on race, identity, and culture. I really appreciate you helping make the class so special and look forward to arranging another.

Engaging, moving, will keep you asking more questions.

What an amazing tour! It completely moved me to rethink the intricate web of social, economic and political relations that characterize British imperial rule and racial politics. Engaging, moving, will keep you asking more questions. The best way to get to know London.

Alai Reyes-Santos, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T13:32:29+01:00

Alai Reyes-Santos, Professor of Ethnic Studies, University of Oregon

What an amazing tour! It completely moved me to rethink the intricate web of social, economic and political relations that characterize British imperial rule and racial politics. Engaging, moving, will keep you asking more questions. The best way to get to know London.

Nothing but positive feedback

The audience and the panellists had some incredibly positive feedback about your presentation. It went down so well and was an brilliant combination of information, revelation and humour. There were also a number of attendees whose firms or companies had organised a Black History Walk with yourself and also had nothing but positive feedback

Sharon Takhar, Origin Network, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP

Black History Walks
5
2020-08-19T16:34:16+01:00

Sharon Takhar, Origin Network, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP

The audience and the panellists had some incredibly positive feedback about your presentation. It went down so well and was an brilliant combination of information, revelation and humour. There were also a number of attendees whose firms or companies had organised a Black History Walk with yourself and also had nothing but positive feedback

It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it for all

A brisk, informative stroll through the heart of the British Empire. Our cheerful and intellectually generous tour guide, led us through narrow alleyways and past Roman ruins, within halls constructed by powerful guilds; in the process, he revealed to us both the many layers of British history and the often unacknowledged cultural multiplicity at its core. The tour was exciting, informative and allowed everyone across age, interest, and temperament to participate and learn. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it for all.

Professor Caroline Brown, University of Montreal, Canada

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T11:38:44+01:00

Professor Caroline Brown, University of Montreal, Canada

A brisk, informative stroll through the heart of the British Empire. Our cheerful and intellectually generous tour guide, led us through narrow alleyways and past Roman ruins, within halls constructed by powerful guilds; in the process, he revealed to us both the many layers of British history and the often unacknowledged cultural multiplicity at its core. The tour was exciting, informative and allowed everyone across age, interest, and temperament to participate and learn. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend it for all.

A truly inspiring day

A truly inspiring day, filled with information I may have NEVER been aware of, if it was not for attending this walk. The friendly intellectually amazing tour guide relayed facts that I would have had to research for months to be aware of. I would URGE any and everyone, of all ages to attend - a great, fun, educational day out.

Isschara Maxine, London

Black History Walks
5
2020-07-15T11:44:18+01:00

Isschara Maxine, London

A truly inspiring day, filled with information I may have NEVER been aware of, if it was not for attending this walk. The friendly intellectually amazing tour guide relayed facts that I would have had to research for months to be aware of. I would URGE any and everyone, of all ages to attend - a great, fun, educational day out.
5
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Black History Walks
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