Helen Cammock: Sixty Years: The Unfinished Conversation at Tate Britain

Diaspora identities are those which are constantly producing and reproducing themselves anew, through transformation and difference.
Stuart Hall


The term diaspora comes from an ancient Greek word meaning ‘to scatter’. Today it refers to people who have migrated from one part of the world to another, or come from families who have. This is true in one way or another of all of the artists included. The renowned cultural studies theorist Stuart Hall saw identity as being full of endless possibilities. Rooted in this outlook, Sixty Years: The Unfinished Conversation seeks to present a sense of pluralism, that all identities, beliefs and differences are accepted, respected and ongoing. Based around John Akomfrah’s film work about Hall, the display features works which defy predetermined or fixed notions of diasporic identity. This draws upon Hall’s ideas that our cultural identity is a matter of ‘becoming’, rather than simply ‘being’. The central idea in this display is that identities of ethnicity, gender, sexuality and class do not function around a singular axis of ‘difference’ and are instead constantly undergoing transformation. Rather than presenting diasporic cultures and identities as binding or singular, they are presented as complex unfinished conversations.


Collective memory and networks forged within and across diasporic groups are an important part of the connections between the artists featured here. Even where ruling classes and dominant cultures have the power to impose restricted world views, people and communities still find a way to express themselves in a way that is true to their own individual understanding of the world.


There is no singular order or chronology to the display. You are invited to make your own connections to and between the works: to look closely at what is distinctive in the subjects, as well as in the artworks themselves. Threads of thought connecting the artworks suggest themes such as migration, marginalisation, memory, kinship, celebration, healing and resilience. We hope you will discover meanings in many different ways, unsettling fixed narratives of nationhood and belonging and recognising that selfhood and identity can only come into existence through our relationships to others. Hall suggested that ‘The future belongs to the impure. The future belongs to those who are ready to take in a bit of the other, as well as being what they themselves are.’

27 October 2021