Lubaina Himid – The Artist Breaking Barriers in Contemporary Art

Lubaina Himid is a visual artist who has been making waves in the contemporary art world for over 40 years. Born in Zanzibar in 1954, Himid grew up in Britain and studied at the Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London. She has worked in painting, printmaking, and installation art, and is known for her powerful and thought-provoking pieces that explore themes of race, history, and identity.

In 2017, Himid made history by becoming the first Black woman to win the Turner Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the art world. The Turner Prize is awarded annually to a British artist under the age of 50 who has made an outstanding contribution to contemporary art. Himid won the award for her solo exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, which featured a series of colourful, large-scale paintings that celebrated the stories of Black people who had been written out of history.

Himid’s work often takes the form of large-scale installations that combine painting, sculpture, and found objects. She uses a variety of techniques and materials, including textiles, ceramics, and wallpaper, to create immersive environments that engage the viewer both visually and intellectually. Many of her pieces are also infused with political commentary and social critique, drawing attention to issues of race, colonialism, and power.

Lubaina Himid, Naming the Money, (2004)

One of Himid’s most famous pieces is “Naming the Money,” a series of 100 cut-out figures painted in vibrant colours and arranged in a sprawling installation. Each figure represents a real person who was involved in the slave trade, from merchants and ship captains to enslaved Africans themselves. By naming and representing these individuals, Himid seeks to confront the legacy of slavery and make visible the human cost of this brutal chapter in history.

Another powerful installation by Himid is “Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service,” which consists of a set of ornate ceramic plates and dishes that feature images and text related to slavery and colonialism. The installation was inspired by an 18th-century porcelain dinner service that was owned by a wealthy slave trader, and seeks to subvert the traditional luxury and beauty associated with fine dining by drawing attention to the dark histories and injustices that underpin them.

Himid’s work has been exhibited widely in galleries and museums around the world, and has received numerous awards and honours. In addition to the Turner Prize, she has been awarded the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Visual Arts, the Order of the British Empire, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford. Her work has also been included in major international exhibitions, such as Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, and the Venice Biennale.

Himid’s art challenges and confronts viewers with difficult questions about history, identity, and power. By creating immersive and engaging installations that draw on her own experiences and the stories of others, she invites us to see the world in new and often uncomfortable ways. As the first Black woman to win the Turner Prize, Himid has broken down barriers in the art world and paved the way for future generations of artists to tell their own stories and challenge the status quo.