Earlier this year we were lucky enough to acquire the library of the National Black Arts Alliance (NBAA, previously the BAA); an astonishingly large collection of high quality books and publications covering art, culture, history and literature, from Africa, South Asia, America, the Caribbean and the UK. It’s an incredibly rich resource, which will add visual depth, colour and beauty to our library.
NBAA was originally formed in 1985 to provide support, training, guidance and profile to Black artists, a provision that was not met by the wider arts community. Similarly, at this time any sort of research and learning collection about Black arts and culture was virtually non-existent, so BAA established a library, based at the organisation’s premises on Swan Street in Manchester. The core of the collection is books that originally belonged to SuAndi, voluntary Cultural Director of NBAA since 1985, (hence many of the books are signed by the author with a personal inscription), but over the years NBAA was able to build the collection through donations, purchases and acquiring review copies.
NBAA is still active, despite losing their office space following withdrawal of Arts Council funding. This of course meant that their remarkable library collection needed a new home. We’re delighted to be able to offer one and ensure the collection remains accessible to the North West Black arts community, and anyone else who has an interest in this area.
It’s proving slow to catalogue, mainly because the items are all so lovely we’re getting distracted reading them. Something that caught our eye recently was this collection of Revue Noire magazine.
34 editions of Revue Noire were published between 1991 and 2001 and it looks as though we have a full set. The beautifully designed glossy publications feel more like coffee table art books than magazines. They focus on contemporary African art (sculpture, painting, photography, dance, theatre, music and literature) with themed editions looking at cultural issue such as the city, gastronomy and AIDS, and an editorial approach that highlights artistic responses to international media, the touristic gaze, discourses of African cultural identity and the rapidly changing dynamics between African aesthetic values and Western influences.
The donation of the NBAA library is a dedication to Dinesh Allirajah (1967-2014), Chair of NBAA Trustees. Dinesh would have been pleased to see the collection being frequently used in its new home.