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The annual celebration attracts over two million individuals from a diverse, international background. In its absence, a new show presents its festivities by way of a markedly Black British zoom lens
To coincide with what will be the 56th annual outdoor carnival in London’s Notting Hill, photographer and curator Rio de janeiro Blake has organised an organization exhibition commemorating the well-known event, which has been cancelled for that second year in a row. Opening tomorrow, An Ode to Carnival reminds us of the carnival’s power to bring together and entertain, all set to the rhythm of Black songs.
The four-day exhibition charts the recent great Notting Hill Carnival — evoking the smells associated with home-cooked ackee, saltfish curry and Caribbean jerk chicken, the closely packed crowds who dance shoulder in order to shoulder and the sounds of the reggae and steel cookware. Nowhere is this more acutely felt than in Alex Kurunis’ Sunday of Carnival, 2017, Golborne Road , in which a boy clutching a bottle of Hennessy cracks open a wide grin, his dark skin shining in the hot August sunlight.
Elsewhere, in Holly-Marie Cato’s Fly Your Banner, a young girl waves the Jamaican flag – a symbolic reminder and sign of solidarity with the Jamaican Windrush community who assisted establish the carnival in its early days. In the work associated with Isaac J Cambridge, the neon-clad subject standing in the centre of a busy frame captures the diversity from the black diaspora.
Using visual images alongside live songs, “the exhibition aims to recreate the times we would have had, ” says Blake. “In the wake of the second year of cancellation for the annual Notting Hill Carnival, this is a commemorative photography exhibition showcasing archived images associated with carnival celebrations from the previous. ”
The charity exhibit, which takes place a stone’s throw from Notting Slope at White City Recording studio, showcases work donated from London-based emerging photographers such as Serena Brown, to Magnum photographer Martin Parr. All of the featured works will be available, with proceeds donated to the Grenfell Foundation, an independent assistance organisation for former residents of the nearby Grenfell Tower, which was destroyed by a fire in 2017.
The photographs are as much a paperwork of carnivals gone simply by as they are a reflection of contemporary British society. But as the show is underpinned by a nostalgic hankering for carnivals past, it successfully handles to balance this with all the anticipation and promise of more festivities to come.
An Ode to Notting Slope Carnival simply by Rio Blake will be on show at White City Studios, London, from twenty nine August until 01 September 2021. The exhibition can be partnered with charities YoungMinds and Mind in Mind. All of print sale proceeds raised from the exhibition are being given to the Grenfell Foundation.