THE FIFTH PAN-AFRICAN CONGRESS
16 JULY – 12 SEPTEMBER 2015
John Deakin, Jomo Kenyatta, 1945. Courtesy Getty Images. © John Deakin/Picture Post/Getty Images
John Deakin, Pan-African Congress, 1945. Courtesy Getty Images. © John Deakin/Picture Post/Getty Images
Opening reception 16 July, 6:30 – 8:30pm.
Autograph ABP presents a new exhibition to mark the 70th anniversary of the Fifth Pan-African Congress, featuring photographs by John Deakin exhibited for the first time.
The Fifth Pan-African Congress took place in Manchester in October 1945, only five months after the end of the Second World War – demanding that European powers liberate hundreds of millions of Africans living under colonial rule, and passing radical measures condemning imperialism, racial discrimination and capitalism.
A Pan-African Film Lounge will accompany the exhibition, screening a programme of films exploring Pan-African history and ideals, guest-curated by June Givanni.
Organised by George Padmore, the Congress was held in Chorlton-upon-Medlock Town Hall with 87 delegates representing 50 organisations. The fifth was the most influential and politically significant of the seven Pan-African Congresses, as it brought together key activists who would later play leading roles in liberation struggles across the continent, including Jomo Kenyatta, the first leader of Kenya after independence, and Kwame Nkrumah, who later led anti-colonial resistance in Ghana. American writer and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois travelled from the USA to chair the Congress, describing 1945 as ‘a decisive year in determining the freedom of Africa’.
Also in attendance were several black activists living in Manchester including Len Johnson, former boxer and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB); Dr Peter Milliard from Guyana, of the Negro Association and president of the Pan African Federation (PAF); Ras Makonnen of the International African Service Bureau (IASB), which was established by CLR James, George Padmore, Amy Ashwood Garvey and others in 1937, and James Taylor of the Negro Welfare Centre. Delegates from South Asia also attended, such as Surat Alley and T. Subasingha. Topics debated included ‘The Colour Problem in Britain’, ‘Oppression in South Africa’ and ‘The Problems in the Caribbean’.
Although the British press scarcely covered this pivotal meeting, extraordinarily Picture Post magazine commissioned celebrated Soho photographer John Deakin (1912-1972) to document the event – his sole assignment for the magazine in his career – published on November 10th 1945, under the editorial title Africa Speaks in Manchester. The writer sent to cover the conference was acclaimed war woman journalist Hilde Marchant.
This is the first time these rarely seen photographs are shown together as a body of work. The exhibition also presents a diptych of the pioneering Trinidadian writer and historian CLR James, photographed by artist Steve Pyke in Brixton during James’ last formal sitting shortly before his death in1989.
The delegates to the Fifth Pan-African Congress believe in peace. How could it be otherwise when for centuries the African peoples have been victims of violence and slavery. Yet if the Western world is still determined to rule mankind by force, then Africans, as a last resort, may have to appeal to force in the effort to achieve Freedom, even if force destroys them and the world.
– George Padmore, The Challenge to the Colonial Powers, 1947
Black Chronicles III: The Fifth Pan-African Congress represents the third exhibition in Autograph ABP’s ongoing Black Chronicles series dedicated to excavating archives to research black photographic history and reveal ‘missing chapters’.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH
The Fifth Pan-African Congress is produced in collaboration with the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images, who own the Picture Post archive.
Thur 16 July, 6:30 – 8:30pm
Rivington Place, London
WHATS IN THE EXHIBITION
The Fifth Pan-African Congress features over thirty photographs by John Deakin, a selection of rare ephemera and materials associated with the Congress, as well as one of the last formal portraits of the pioneering Afro-Trinidadian writer and historian C.L.R. James, photographed in Brixton by Steve Pyke shortly before his death in 1989.
The exhibition continues upstairs in Project Space 2 with a Pan-African Film Lounge guest-curated by June Givanni. This film installation features a revolving programme across four simultaneous screens exploring Pan-African history and ideals, including moving image portraits of key figures and moments associated with the Fifth Pan-African Congress.
PAN AFRICAN FILM LOUNGE
Autograph ABP presents a film installation featuring a revolving programme across four simultaneous screens exploring. Guest curated by June Givanni.
The First World Festival of Negro Arts
(1966, dir. William Greaves)
Duration: 40 min
- E. B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices
(1996, dir. Louis Massiah)
Duration: 116 min
Aimé Césaire: A Voice for History
(1994, dir. Euzhan Palcy)
Duration: 52 min
The CLR James Lectures:
The Caribbean and Africa
(1983, prod. H.O. Nazareth)
Duration: 26 min each
The 5th Pan-African Congress is curated and researched by Mark Sealy.
Mark Sealy MBE is the Director of Autograph ABP. He is currently a PhD candidate at Durham University; his research focuses on photography and cultural violence.
The Pan-African Film Lounge is Guest Curated by June Givanni
A UK-based curator, Givanni has programmed at film festivals all over the world for over 30 years. The June Givanni Pan-African Film Archive consists of films, photographs, audio interviews, journals, posters and scripts, all devoted to the celebration of Black experiences on film. www.junegivannifilmarchive.com
All press enquiries please contact Lois Olmstead at Autograph ABP:
T: 020 7729 9200
Working Class Movement Library
The Working Class Movement Library exists to tell the story of people’s fight for a better world. This is not dreary politics, grey men in grey suits telling half truths. It’s a place of ideas, of questions and of demands. The collection covers everything from working life to political life, to union life, to sporting life. It’s full of stuff to inspire you to investigate, and to spur you on to participate.
P: 0207 749 1240
Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday: 11am – 6pm
Thursday: 11am – 9pm
Saturday: 12 – 6pm
Closed Sundays, Mondays and Bank Holidays
Rivington Place is fully accessible. Disabled parking bays are available, please call in advance to reserve.
Weeks after the fall of Nazi Germany, African leaders gathered in a Manchester town hall in the name of freedom and self-determination. Seventy years later, an exhibition at Autograph ABP uncovers the fascinating images documenting this influential meeting of minds.
In October, 1945, as the European powers recovered from six years of, 87 delegates representing 50 organisations met in a town hall in Manchester.
They came together for the Fifth Pan-African Congress, all with a singular, righteous purpose: the liberation of hundreds of millions of Africans living under colonial rule.
Seventy years have passed since the Fifth Pan-African Congress, an event which, in hindsight, was one of the most significant happenings of African organisation ever to have occurred in Britain, perhaps the world.
To commemorate, Autograph ABP are, for the first time, exhibiting photographs taken at the event.
The exhibition features over thirty photographs, a selection of rare ephemera and materials associated with the Congress and will be accompanied by a Pan-African Film Lounge, screening a programme of films exploring Pan-African history.
“It’s an interesting chapter in history in many ways,” says Mark Sealy, director of Autograph ABP. “It’s significant in terms of who was there and why they were there — Jomo Kenyatta [the first leader of Kenya after independence], Kwame Nkrumah [who later led anti-colonial resistance in Ghana] and W.E.B. Du Bois, who at the time is probably the most significant black man on the planet.
“It turns out John Deakin [famed for photographing Soho nightlife] was the photographer on his only assignment for [pioneering British photojournalism magazine] Picture Post, who were also acute enough to get one of the few female war correspondents Hilde Marchant up there [to report].”
While the impulse to form a sense of ‘pan-African’ unity encompassing regional and ethnic diversities is centuries old, it began to truly take shape in the late 19th and early 20th century, with religious leaders and intellectuals such as Alexander Walters, Henry Sylvester Williams and Marcus Garvey leading the charge.
The Trinidadian journalist and writer George Padmore became an influential figure at the congress, playing a crucial role in organising the 1945 conference alongside Kwame Nkrumah.
“Here at long last was a philosophy evolved by Black thinkers which peoples of African descent could claim and use as their own,” he wrote in his 1965 book Pan-Africanism or Communism.
What is striking from the photos is the sense of sheer potential of the time. While post-war Europe reckoned with existential crisis, Africa and Africans were looking forward; contemplating a future where they held their destiny in their own hands. As Du Bois remarked, the Congress made 1945 “a decisive year in determining the freedom of Africa”.
This context for the images, just weeks after the end of the war, is potent: existing in a bubble of time between European colonialism and the destabilised regimes of the Cold War.
Colonised nations were striving for self-determination, to, as the ‘Challenge to the Colonial Powers’ reads, ‘make the world listen to the facts of our condition”.
With representatives spanning Africa, the Caribbean, the United States and Britain, the Congress was demonstrative of a burgeoning black solidarity that spanned the entire diaspora.
This progressivism extended even further; delegates from South Asia (such as Surat Alley and T. Subasingha) also attended.
Signs at the event read “Freedom for all subject people”, “Oppressed Peoples of the World Unite”, and “Arabs and Jews Unite against British Imperialism”.
“There’s a massive sense of hope in that space,” says Sealy. “The war had just finished; it was a new world, there was a new contract on the table, new rights to be had. This was the place people were saying ‘we’ve made a contribution, we’ve just fought the Nazis and the Fascists for you — can we have our freedom now?’”
“What photographers need to do is encourage us to take responsibility,” says Sealy. This notion of accountability of the collective, expounded in French philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas’ post-war writing, is a strong influence on his curation.
“I don’t think photographs inherently change anything. I think what they can do is they can generate a conversation about the time and place they refer to, and help us historically rethink the present.
“The images don’t change the world, it’s what we do with them that changes the world. It’s what we think about, whether they resonate — whether you and I act differently after we see them.