A special exhibition, “BLACK”, has just opened at London’s Cartoon Museum to celebrate Black History Month, exploring the story and world of the brilliant unflinching but uplifting graphic memoir by Tobias Taitt and Anthony Smith, which has recently been serialised in David Lloyd‘s graphic anthology, Aces Weekly – and is now available as a graphic novel from Soaring Penguin Press.
Tobias was on hand at the opening last night to talk about the project. Rich Johnston of Bleeding Cool was on hand to record his speech, and has a report on the event here.
As we’ve previously reported, BLACK is the true story of Tobias’s life, growing from a child raised in social care in 1970s and 1980s Britain to a young man pursuing a life of crime before becoming a writer. Serialised across several volumes of the acclaimed digital anthology Aces Weekly, it’s a tale of a dysfunctional family life and a childhood spent mostly in care, touching on themes of class and race, as the adolescent Tobias gravitates from care to crime.
Tobias spent his early years in a variety of children’s homes in the South of England, where casual racism and brutality were frighteningly commonplace.
As a black youth growing up in 1970’s Britain, he learned first-hand that the world could be a cold and uncaring place for a child of the state. But he also learned to navigate – and eventually to buck – the system.
Discovering a life outside the drab institutions that held him, he began a descent into a life of crime, while simultaneously developing a love for literature, and all its possibilities that grew within him.
The Cartoon Museum exhibition offers an intimate new display, inviting visitors to experience a powerful and personal encounter with the art, story and people behind this remarkable graphic novel.
The exhibition presents a stunning collection of 24 original pen and ink illustrations from the graphic novel, displayed with video narration from Tobias who will personally guide visitors through the artwork and its connection with his life and story.
The show also delves into Anthony and Tobias’s artistic process of collaboratively creating the graphic novel through a selection of sketches and studies, printed pages from the graphic novel and ephemera from 1980s Britain which inspired the visual world of BLACK.
“We are excited to work with Tobias and Anthony to help tell the story of BLACK,” says Joe Sullivan, Director of The Cartoon Museum, “and to give visitors an insight into how an artist creates a work that pulls the reader into a certain time and place – in the case of BLACK, the care homes and streets of 1970s Britain.
“It is essential that black voices in the comic and cartoon medium are celebrated, and this exhibition is a great opportunity to share Tobias’ story with our visitors.”
“This is an uncompromising true story of a boy growing up in a series of institutions in 70s/ 80s Britain. That boy happens to be me,” says Tobias.
“When I was three years old my mother killed my uncle, was sent to prison, and condemned me to spend my early life in a series of bleak children’s homes.
“But the highlights of my early years are as memorable as the low points. And the people that helped me, both black and white still shine brightly to me. I’ve worked closely with Anthony Smith to bring my past alive in a way that will hopefully resonate with people young and old. This is our way of contributing a small slice of history that may otherwise have been lost.
“I’m honoured and deeply grateful that the Cartoon Museum is putting on an exhibition of the story that ran in Aces Weekly, and has now been published by Soaring Penguin Press in a graphic novel.
“But let me state clearly, this is no sob story or misery memoir. It’s a celebration of my life and British history through the power of words and pictures.”
Free Online Panel Discussion
The exhibition will be accompanied by a Free Online Panel Discussion on 20th October from 7.00pm – 8.00pm, to discuss Tobias Taitt’s powerful autobiographical graphic novel and the appertaining issues that accompany life in social care in the 1970s. On the panel will be author Tobias Taitt and artist Anthony Smith, Dal Babu (OBE), former chief superintendent of the Metropolitan police, Don John, Founder of Black History Month, Southampton, and Mykaell S Riley, founder of the British Roots Reggae group, Steel Pulse and Principal Investigator on the first major Arts and Humanities Research Council award for black British music at Westminster University.
Tickets are free and the Cartoon Museum are keen to hear from and involve young people and higher educational institutions in the Q&A at the end of the session. Questions for the Q&A can be submitted in advance to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Union Jack has never looked better! Items include posters, travel card holders, coasters, magnets and a pocket mirror, alongside copies of the book