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Barby Asante: Declaration of Independence - Artwork on the Underground

Declaration of Independence by Barby Asante on display at Notting Hill Gate Underground Station

As part of the Art on the Underground series, a newly commissioned iteration of Barby Asante‘s work Declaration of Independence will be on display at Notting Hill Gate Underground Station. This exhibit in Notting Hill will join further displays at Stratford and Bethnal Green stations.

(Credit: Benedict Johnson)

The series of works reflects on how declarations, policies and legislations impact our everyday lives. Declaration of Independence is an ongoing project by London-based artist Barby Asante, and it brings together women and non-binary people of colour and acknowledges how they are often at the forefront of struggles for equity and social justice.

For this part of her work, Asante collaborated with TfL employees in a series of workshops to produce a collective script – a new Declaration of Independence for 2023. This was performed to an audience of thousands at Stratford Tube station on 17th September 2023.

Declaration of Independence also saw a collective process of sharing and learning amongst TfL employees. One of the recurring concepts in the work is the circle, as drawn from West African communing traditions. This circle in Asante’s work provides the space for dialogue amongst the performers and audiences that enables them to commune, witness, share knowledge and imagine futures that foreground equity and social justice. By telling their stories, and sharing experiences through performance, the work explores the potential to question existing dominant narratives, reflecting on how the political affects the personal.

Asante also invited frequent collaborators into the development of her work. These include artist and musician, Hannah Catherine Jones; sociologist and Black Feminist, Gail Lewis; psychotherapist and writer Foluke Taylor; artist Baby Blue and visual artist and music selecta, Innavisions.

The newly written and performed declaration and the station artworks foreground black diaspora narratives of non-binary people and women. The work specifically highlights the histories and divisions of labour that have impacted these narratives, capturing the scale and value of this work to London. Declaration retells stories of domestic and workplace labour connecting these to wider histories of migration as a legacy of colonialism. The performance demonstrates the importance of collective thinking; by holding public space Declaration gives voice to personal narratives and shapes future intentions.

The artwork at Underground stations

Asante also spent time in the London Transport Museum’s photography archives to find images of women of colour at work in different roles in TfL’s history. The images Asante discovered – including those employed by London Transport’s direct recruitment drive in Barbados in 1956 – form part of the three large-scale images that have been installed at the three Underground stations. These images have been placed alongside dialogue containing words from the Declaration.

Barby Asante: Declaration of Independence - Artwork on the Underground
(Credit: Benedict Johnson)

Produced on vinyl, the artwork has been set within brightly coloured interconnected shapes and lines to form new speculative constellations and to communicate ideas about histories and futures in a collective voice.

The artwork on display also explores ways of creating and occupying space; it has been installed within touching distance alongside the station escalators and above Stratford Tube station ticket hall. This means that the previously personal and intimate Declaration has been propelled onto the public stage.

Barby Asante: Declaration of Independence - Artwork on the Underground
(Credit: Benedict Johnson)

The artwork is on display at Notting Hill Gate, Stratford and Bethnal Green Underground stations from now until 5th January 2025.

About Barby Asante

Barby Asante is a London-based artist, educator and researcher. Some of her recent works include To Make Love is to Re-Create Ourselves Over and Over Again: A Soliloquy to Heartbreak, Untitled, Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, 2021; Declaration of Independence, Diaspora Pavilion, Venice, 2017, Library of Performing Rights, BALTIC, Gateshead 2019, Bergen Kunsthall 2020, Brent Biennial, 2020; Black Togetherness as Lingua Franca with Amal Alhaag, Framer Framed, Amsterdam, 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, 2018; Baldwin’s N R E L O A D E D, InIVA, London, 2014, Somerset House, London 2019; Cracks in the Curriculum: Countless Ways of Knowing, Serpentine Gallery, London 2018; SERP Revisited with Barbara Steveni, Flat Time House/ Peckham Platform, 2018.

Asante has a PhD from the University of Westminster and is on the boards of the Women’s Art Library and 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning.

About Art on the Underground

Art on the Underground invites artists to create projects for the London Underground through a variety of media – from painting, installation, sculpture, digital and performance, to prints and custom Tube map covers. These artworks are seen by millions of commuters each day, changing the way they experience the city.

Some of the critically acclaimed projects as part of Art on the Underground include commissions by UK-based and international artists including Jeremy Deller, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Wallinger, and Tania Bruguera.

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