Barby Asante is a London based artist whose work offers its audience interactive experiences. Her past projects include I Accept Your Image, I am You. at 198 Gallery, Brixton. This exhibition challenged media images of beauty, by drawing out the performative instincts of the project's participants.
Journey into the East considers Britain's colonial past in India, Africa and China. Along with other assets produced and exported from these countries, tea was a major economic commodity. While the impact of colonialism can still be felt in India and some African countries, the origins of tea have become largely forgotten in British culture with drinkers of the beverage rarely considering its cross cultural heritage.
Asante explored the broader cultural significance of tea by referencing methods of display and taxonomy applied to museum collections, as well as teashops. Asante also offered a personal critique that included journals of journeys she had made through the East End of London, acting as an amateur Ethnographer, and video portraits of the artist's friends, family and colleagues, showing their own idiosyncratic tea rituals.
As part of Journey into the East, Asante created the essence of a teashop within The Showroom where people could come to gather their thoughts, or meet others over a cup of tea. During the project the 'teashop' evolved into a 'salon' on Saturday afternoons, hosting a series of talks that looked at colonialism, ethnographic practice and British identity. The speakers included Barby Asante, Jean-Paul Martinon independent curator and lecturer at Goldsmiths College and Shaheen Merali artist and lecturer at Central St. Martins. Through these discussions the wider cultural ramifications of this seemingly straight-forward drink were revealed.
Project supported by R. Twining and Company Ltd.