Ancient Egypt, African Art and Identity in Modernist Britain
A Fusion of Worlds is an exploration of the ways in which modernist artists - in particular Jacob Epstein, Edna Manley and Ronald Moody - were inspired by Ancient Egypt. The exhibition focuses on how Egyptian artefacts played a role in the production of artworks by these artists between the wars in the context of the British and African diasporic art scenes and their own personal complex explorations of identity.
Film from the 2014 Fusion of Worlds exhibition
Egypt was one of many different cultures that influenced modernist artists, particularly in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, and the reception of its material culture was fused with that of other cultures. The style of this material culture also symbolised the antiquity of African civilisation as well as a spiritual alternative for many political movements within the African diaspora.
The reception of Ancient Egypt in the Harlem Renaissance and the so-called 'discovery' of African Art in the modernist period is often not acknowledged. Even more forgotten within British public memory is the contribution of Black artists and cultural figures in the Interwar period - an area explored in Drawing over the Colour Line and the resulting Spaces of Black Modernism: London 1919-1939 at Tate Britain on display from September 2014 - October 2015.
This website is an online version of the 2014 exhibition A Fusion of Worlds. The research and resulting exhibition was a collaboration between Gemma Romain (UCL Equiano Centre) and Debbie Challis (Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology). Additional research was undertaken by Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski. They presented their findings at a series of meetings to members of the public who wanted to be involved in this project.
Quick Links to the Resource
- Context: Egypt in Modernist Britain, Harlem Renaissance, Ancient Egypt: Culture and 'Barbarism', Spirituality and sculpture
- Artists: Mahmoud Mukhtar, Ronald Moody, Edna Manley, Jacob Epstein in London Walk
- Study and Curriculum Ideas
We are grateful to the group participants, who included Jacinth Martine, Robin Walker, Felicity Heywood, Maggie Ibrahim, Gina Nembard, Sandra Claggett, Ciar Boyle Gifford, Feyi Raimi-Abraham, Kandace Chimbiri, Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski, Lauren Craig and Joy Simmons.
John J Johnstone, Caroline Bressey, Stephanie Alder, Maxine Miller, Adrian Glew, Jennifer Mason and Helen Pike shared their expertise and support. We owe thanks to Robert Eagle for shooting and directing the short video accompanying this exhibition. We are also very grateful to the various organisations which have helped us with copyright, in particular Tate, the Estate of Sir Jacob Epstein, the Edna Manley Foundation in Jamaica, ONYX and Dr. David Boxer, the Ronald Moody Foundation, the David Graham Du Bois Trust, the Special Collections & University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Val Wilmer.
A Fusion of Worlds was funded by UCL Grand Challenges: Intercultural Interaction as a joint initiative between The Equiano Centre, Geography, UCL and the Petrie Museum, UCL
Debbie Challis and Gemma Romain, Co-curators of A Fusion of Worlds, 2015.