The first wave of mass Caribbean migration into Britain began when the passenger liner, HMT Empire Windrush, arrived at Tilbury Docks in 1948 with approximately 800 West Indians aboard, and hence the Windrush Generation was born. Amongst them were a number of aspiring artists, setting into motion the events that would lead to the formation of The Caribbean Artists Movement.
Recent political independence would be the catalyst for many artists seeking to reinvent themselves and promote their own cultures by venturing abroad in search of new skills and audiences for their work. In a London flat on the 19th of December 1966, a small informal meeting was held by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, which would be the beginning of CAM (Caribbean Artists Movement). Brathwaite was a Barbadian-born historian poet who had recently arrived in Britain. Although he was aware of other Caribbean artists, he found it almost impossible to get in contact with them. Together with broadcaster academic Andrew Salkey, and the political and cultural activist John La Rose, they set out to create a forum, which would allow anyone interested in Caribbean Arts to meet in order to share ideas and interests.
CAM was a diverse group of not just artists, but writers and critics too, all with the common vested interest in developing a new Caribbean aesthetic, one which would represent their colonial history while defining a newly formed black British identity. Members representing the visual arts included Ronald Moody, Aubrey Williams, and Althea McNish. Today Moody is considered one of Britain's most remarkable Modernist sculptors, with his pieces achieving five figure sums regularly at auction. Williams is most well-known for his large abstract oil-on-canvas paintings, while textile designer McNish went on to become "Britain's first and most distinguished black textile designer" – she even designed fabrics for Queen Elizabeth II's wardrobe for the 1966 Royal Tour of Trinidad and the Caribbean. Other upcoming names included Karl ‘Jerry’ Craig, Art Derry, Winston Branch and Errol Lloyd who have been gaining in popularity and value in recent years.
Even though CAM ceased as a formal organisation in 1972, the connections forged would continue to influence the Caribbean movement well into the 1990s providing a solid foundation for the next generation of black British born and bred artists. In December 2021, The Tate opened their landmark exhibition “Life Between Islands”, which celebrated the communities and identities forged by the Caribbean people in post-war Britain. Amongst the artists featured including names mentioned above, were several whose works have been gaining recognition and appreciation worldwide, namely Donald Locke, Horace Ové, Sonia Boyce, Claudette Johnson, Peter Doig, Hurvin Anderson and Alberta Whittle.
The works of these Caribbean artists have not only captivated audiences worldwide but have also gained considerable recognition and value in the art market. Their pieces have been featured in prestigious galleries and museums. Some artworks by these artists have been fetching impressively high prices at auction due to their historical significance and artistic merit… Indeed, their future continues to look bright.
By exploring the works of these Caribbean artists, one can gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of their cultural heritage and artistic contributions. Their ability to challenge conventions and express their individuality through art has been instrumental in the transformation of British culture and what society looks like today.
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