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Inside the invisibleMemorialising Slavery and Freedom in the Life and Works of Lubaina Himid$
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Celeste-Marie Bernier, Alan Rice, Lubaina Himid, and Hannah Durkin

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620856

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620856.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 12 May 2021

‘Safety and danger and how to tell the difference’: Suffering, Struggle and Survival in Plan B (1999)

‘Safety and danger and how to tell the difference’: Suffering, Struggle and Survival in Plan B (1999)

Chapter:
(p.155) 6 ‘Safety and danger and how to tell the difference’: Suffering, Struggle and Survival in Plan B (1999)
Source:
Inside the invisible
Author(s):

Celeste-Marie Bernier

Alan Rice

Lubaina Himid

Hannah Durkin

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781789620856.003.0008

‘In 1997 I began to work on a series which was exhibited at Tate St Ives in 1999/2000 – Plan B. The work brought out the theme of safety and danger and how to tell the difference’, Lubaina Himid writes of this series which is the subject of this chapter. ‘What is better, to be stuck in what looks to the outside world to be a safe place but is in fact [a] dangerous place, for ever’, she asks, ‘or to venture into what is a dangerous place but have the free will to find safety’. Debating issues related to physical and psychological confinement versus liberation for African diasporic peoples fighting to survive the prejudices and persecutions of white supremacist western nations, Himid took inspiration for her title for this series from African American writer Chester B. Himes’s ‘violent’ unfinished novel Plan B, published posthumously in 1993. As per his provocative narrative in which the US nation functions as the quintessential ‘dangerous place’ for Black people trying to survive against all odds, she confirms that ‘[t]he paintings recall terrifying experiences related through desperate narratives across the centuries by runaway slaves, escaping hostages, fleeing migrants, bombed communities and battered women’. As the protagonists in Himes’s novel face life-and-death situations, so Himid argues, ‘The work exposes the dilemma of deciding whether to endure the dangers of a current violent situation or risk life-threatening events during the process of escape’. Working beyond Himes’s subject matter to destabilise temporal boundaries and interrogate competing historical contexts, Himid dramatises the tragedies and traumas experienced by ‘runaway slaves, escaping hostages, fleeing migrants, bombed communities and battered women’. She represents and reimagines narratives of slavery and freedom, memories of war and peace and testimonies of domestic and national violence. Himid uses this series to ask and answer a question: ‘Is the inside you know more dangerous to you than the outside you don’t know?’ Here she comes to terms not solely with the corporeal wounding but with the emotional suffering facing past, present and future Black diasporic peoples as a catalyst for her – and by extension their – radical formulation of a new ‘Plan B’ in which she and they endorse radical practices of resistance and revolution.

Keywords:   Lubaina Himid, Slavery, Memory, Freedom, the Body, Representation, Trauma, violence, activism, agency, resistance, rebellion, revolution, radicalism

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