Companion to Contemporary Black British Culture

By Alison Donnell | Go to book overview

college in 1973, designing for several high-profile companies such as Yves Saint Laurent, Liberty and Henri Bendel. The son of a Jamaican boxer and a white Londoner, his childhood was spent in a number of locations including Harrogate, County Durham and a Dr Barnardo's children's home in London. In 1975, he received a grant from the home that enabled him to set up his own London-based fashion house, Bruce Oldfield Ltd. Oldfield has always been attracted to the high standards and technical workmanship found in couture. He recognised that there was a market for understated, flattering clothes and aimed for a 'classic' timeless look. Oldfield is probably best known for his couture and 'ready to wear' evening dresses, with high-profile clients such as the late Princess of Wales, Joan Collins and Anjelica Huston. In 1990 he was awarded an OBE and made an honorary fellow of both the Royal College of Art and Durham University


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Oldfield, B. and Howell, G. (1987) Bruce Oldfield'sSeason, London: Pan.

SAMINA ZAHIR

Olton, Munirah

b. 1959, Middlesex, England

ceramicist

Olton has always shown some form of artistic talent. As a teenager, she used to make her own clothes and was able to cut and design intuitively. Olton moved from Hertfordshire to London in 1991, where she enrolled on an adult education class in ceramics. Six years later she started a degree in arts for community at the University of Surrey, Roehampton School of Art. Olton is now excelling in a field where black ceramists are few and black British women ceramists even fewer. Her work has been featured in Untold magazine and she exhibits on a regular basis, including at Brixton Art Gallery, which promotes black British art. Afrocentricity is reflected in her work with a modern feel, in pieces such as vases with cowrie shells in the middle. The message is to ensure that black people do not lose their symbols but rather understand what they mean and incorporate them, where possible, into everyday living. For Olton, art is part of a historical cycle that can be created and re-created. She is currently working on an art project for Charing Cross Hospital, London, which is one of her most challenging pieces to date, consisting of a stylised sweep of fish cast on waves. She is the founder member of Falongo Arts.

YINKA SUNMONU

Onwurah, Ngozi

b. 1963, England

film-maker

As the daughter of a Nigerian father and British mother, Onwurah's short film (see film andcinema) Coffee-Coloured Children (1988) is a raw semi-autobiographical study of two mixed race children in Newcastle. Her next short The Body Beautiful (1991) dramatically examined the profound effects of female body image, beauty and sexuality through the maternal bond between a white mother, undergoing a mastectomy, and her black daughter, embarking on a modelling career. Inspired by Maya Angelou's same-titled poem, Onwurah deconstructs stereotypical images of black women and their sexuality in And Still I Rise (1993), seaming together interviews, archival images and live action in an emblematic blend of spirited narrative and striking visual image. Monday's Girls (1993) forcefully explores the iria women's initiation ceremony in Nigeria from the viewpoint of two young Waikiriki girls, pitting modern individualism against community tradition. In 1994, Onwurah became the first black British woman to direct a feature. A political action thriller based on an old tribal legend, Welcome II the Terrordome explored black and white relations in a violent British dystopia but disappointed commercially and critically. Onwurah continued to direct and produce (with her brother Simon under their company Non-Aligned Communications) a number of documentaries and dramas including Behind The Mask (1996) and I Bring You Frankincense (1996).

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