Hatoum and Fani-Kayode: Exploring the works of refugee artists in the UK


The Light at the End (1989), an installation created by Palestinian-Lebanese artist Mona Hatoum, uses depth and darkness to portray the absence of identity and feeling of loss experienced by refugees in the UK. Six electrical heated rods are cornered at the edge triangular gallery. Red spotlights against the steel frame are the only source of visual reference to the work.  The rest of the room is completely dark; there is no escaping. Here, Hatoum not only toys with the concept of minimalist aesthetic, but also she uses her work to portray the isolation, fear and imprisonment that refugees, like herself felt when they emigrated from their home lands.

Nothing to Lose IV, 1989

Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s work entitled Nothing to Lose IV – Bodies of Experience (1989), explores similar themes of displacement and alienation.  Here, Fani-Kayode demonstrates the Western ethnographic portrayal of the primitive wild man.  Fani-Kayode’s portraiture engages the viewer in a very direct way: black, male, homosexual photography.  The human body in nude form illustrates the vulnerability and negative attitude towards African diaspora in the late eighties and early nineties.

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