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A woman wearing glasses and a head-dress sitting in a wood-panelled room.
Onyeka Igwe, A Radical Duet, 2023, HD Video, 28:09 mins. Courtesy the artist.

Onyeka Igwe
history is a living weapon in yr hand
13 January – 2 March 2024

Exhibition preview: Friday 12 January 6-8pm

Bonington Gallery presents history is a living weapon in yr hand, a solo exhibition of new and reconfigured work by London based artist Onyeka Igwe. The exhibition follows Igwe’s acclaimed solo exhibition A Repertoire of Protest (No Dance, No Palaver) at MoMA PS1 in New York, earlier this year, and ahead of her inclusion in the exhibition Nigeria Imaginary at the national pavilion of Nigeria at the Venice Biennale 2024.

The exhibition will be centred around a new two-screen adaptation of Igwe’s dual timeline experimental film A Radical Duet (2023). In 1947 London was a hub of radical anti-colonial activity, with international intellectuals, artists, and activists such as Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and Sylvia Wynter, C L R James, Kwame Nkrumah and George Padmore all in London at this time. Each of them was individually agitating for their respective countries’ national independence, but did they meet, and if so, what did they discuss?

The film features fictional characters inspired by these radical figures. It imagines what happens when two women of different generations, but both part of the post-war independence movement, come together in London to put their fervour and imagination into writing a revolutionary play. The film depicts this process and envisages what that play would look like if staged today.

A film still featuring a man standing in a dark room, with his hands in the air, holding a book in one hand.
Onyeka Igwe, A Radical Duet, 2023, HD Video, 28:09 mins. Courtesy the artist.

The film will be accompanied by elements of the set design and props from the making of A Radical Duet, taking inspiration from the Jamaican writer and cultural theorist, Sylvia Wynter’s ideas on theatrical adaptation. Wynter builds on Brechtian principles of modern epic theatre and advises on how set design can support a theatre to ‘explode [social] fears by bringing them out into the light of day’.

For this exhibition, Igwe will be working with Collective Text, an organisation supporting accessibility in art and film through creative captioning, audio description and interpretation.

history is a living weapon in yr hand is produced in collaboration with Peer Gallery, London, where it will be presented in autumn 2024.

An old sepia postcard showing the Waverley building.
Image: Misch & Stock’s ‘Camera Graphics”. Series No. 510 i2. Nottingham. Stamped July 31, 1906 The image shows the Waverley Building, originally home to the Nottingham School of Art & Design and now part of the School of Art & Design at Nottingham Trent University

John Beck and Matthew Cornford
The Art Schools of the East Midlands
22 September – 2 December 2023
Exhibition preview: Thursday 21 September 6-8pm

This autumn Bonington Gallery presents The Art Schools of the East Midlands, the latest iteration of John Beck’s and Matthew Cornford’s ambitious Art School Project to locate and document the nation’s art school buildings or the sites upon which they once stood. The project combines photography, text, and archival materials to explore the histories and legacies of Britain’s art schools, and examine the vital role art schools have played, and continue to play, in the cultural and economic life of our towns and cities.

The twin Victorian engines of industrial ambition and social reform powered the British art school system, set up to deliver a skilled labour force for local industry – such as lace manufacture in Nottingham – and much needed educational opportunities to the newly enfranchised working class. Art schools combined practical training and exposure to culture, turning out skilled producers and discerning consumers well into the twentieth century.

By the mid-1960s there were still over 150 art schools in the UK, and ‘art school’ became a journalistic shorthand for creative innovation across arts, design, music and advertising. Yet at the peak of their influence on British cultural life, art schools in many towns and cities were already being amalgamated, reorganised and rebranded as part of a drive to reshape education in the arts. Most art schools have long since been absorbed into larger institutions or faded away.

Bonington Gallery’s presentation focuses on the art schools of the East Midlands and features original photographic images of all the region’s art school buildings alongside displays of archival material. The striking grandeur of Derby School of Art’s Gothic Revival building currently stands empty, whilst the Waverley Building built in 1865 for Nottingham School of Art remains one of the few Victorian built art school buildings still actively used for teaching art – as part of Nottingham Trent University. The project is also, importantly, an investigation of our present moment, documenting the sites of former art schools which have been redeveloped or reused.

The exhibition and the accompanying series of talks and events aim to create a space for dialogue and debate, raising questions about the role of the arts and art education in relation to community, history, and identity, and the shifting complex role of cultural production and cultural labour in the contemporary environment.

The Art School Project was prompted by the discovery that the college both Beck and Cornford attended in the early 1980s, Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design, was disused and up for sale. Evolving over 15 years the project takes the form of a series of regionally focused exhibitions. Their work on the West Midlands was recently shown at the New Gallery Walsall, and the North West iteration of the project was exhibited in Liverpool, Bury and Rochdale. The project is documented on Instagram:

To accompany The Art Schools of the East Midlands exhibition in our Gallery by John Beck and Matthew Cornford, our Vitrines and Foyer will feature historical materials relating to the history of Nottingham School of Art & Design.

The School was first established in 1843, and counts painter Dame Laura Knight, Desperate Dan creator Dudley D. Watkins, BAFTA nominated director Jonathan Glazer, comedian Matt Berry and visual artist Hetain Patel amongst its notable alumni.

Come along to discover photographs, artefacts, aural histories, press cuttings and more from the art school’s rich 180-year history. Uncover some of the lesser known histories, and hear memories from those who worked and studied here over the years.

This exhibition has been assisted by Researcher & Assistant Curator: Lee Chih Han, Art Museum and Gallery Studies placement from University of Leicester.

Photographs by Jules Lister


Come along to our launch night on Thursday 21 September, 6 pm – 8 pm for a first look round, alongside Art Schools of the East Midlands in the Gallery.

Book your free tickets

Screenshot of Ruth Angel Edwards Featured in Bubblegum Club

Ruth Angel Edwards’ solo exhibition, Wheel of the Year ! Effluent Profundal Zone ! has recently been picked up by Bubblegum Club – a ‘cultural intelligence agency’ based in Johannesburg.

Check out the article here.

Mark Patterson reviews Giorgio Sadotti’s solo exhibition for the Nottingham Post’s Entertainment Guide. Featuring thoughts from Giorgio, the review also  includes more about the background and aims of the exhibition, as well as Giorgio’s time spent studying here at NTU.

Click here to download the PDFDownload