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Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal – Transparency

Edinburgh Printmakers until January 5 2020
Four stars

Hangovers of Empire hang heavy over Alberta Whittle and Hardeep Pandhal’s work, seen here in tandem responding in part to Edinburgh Printmakers’ former tenure as the North British Rubber Company. They’re there in Alberta Whittle’s two short films, What Sound Does The Black Atlantic Make? and Sorry Not Sorry, that form the centre-piece of her contribution to this exhibition curated by the Mother Tongue organisation. They’re there too in Pandhal’s short animation, BAME of Thrones (trailer) and his Happy Punjabi Gothic series of eight etchings.

Both of Whittle’s films are collages that join the dots of the black experience, from colonial cannon fodder serving queen and country, to the Windrush generation patronisingly welcomed off the ships with requests to sing calypso. Fast forward a few years on, and marches by the National Front and inner city riots look like troubling pre-cursors to where we are now. Today’s institutionalised racism is exposed by an impassioned Diane Abbot and David Lammy, and is as easy to see through as are the three wall pieces of totems produced in Whittle’s home country of Barbados. Three sculptural installations, Exodus – Behind’s God’s Back, Grave Liners for the Dispossessed and Hindsight is a Luxury I Can’t Afford, are similarly personal evocations of a largely hidden history.

Pandhal’s punningly named BAME of Thrones (trailer), originally commissioned by Channel Four, is a tellingly silent comic-book style rap-based depiction of a migrant-based culture under watch. His Happy Punjab Gothic series draws from a drawing by nineteenth and early twentieth century Indian satirical cartoonist Gaganendranath Tagore that looks at the commodification of education in colonial era India. Pandhal’s updates show how education has been monetised in an explicitly political fashion. Such oppressive ideological constructs are laid bare throughout an exhibition that reclaims assorted hidden histories as a glaring reminder of the roots of the state we’re in right now.  

The List, October 2019



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