Patrons Circle

Alberta Whittle‘Lagareh - the Last Born’, 2022

The National Galleries of Scotland has announced the acquisition of two major works by the celebrated Barbadian-Scottish artist, Alberta Whittle.

Taking time to imagine and reimagine is at the core of Alberta Whittle’s work, and central to her new presentation deep dive (pause) uncoiling memory. In an immersive environment, the artist encourages us to slow down, in order that we may collectively consider the historic legacies and contemporary expressions of racism, colonialism and migration, and begin to think outside of these damaging frameworks.

The artist’s extraordinary installation with tapestry, Entanglement is more than blood (2022), and thought-provoking film, Lagareh – The Last Born (2022), will form an integral part of Alberta Whittle: create dangerously. The free exhibition was open to the public between Saturday 1 April 2023 and 7 January 2024 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One) in Edinburgh.

The two works were at the heart of the artist’s critically acclaimed exhibition at the 59th Venice Biennale, 2022, where she represented Scotland. Their entry into the national collection forms a significant legacy of this landmark project.

Lagareh – The Last Born was co-commissioned and produced by Forma Arts, London and was also made possible thanks to the generosity of Outset patrons Robin Hardie and George Morris. Centring the collective strength of contemporary Black womxn, this 43-minute film is anchored in ideas of abolition, rebellion, grief, and love. Shot on location in Scotland, London, and Barbados, and featuring footage from Sierra Leone and Venice, Alberta has woven together contrasting stories of individual acts of resistance against racist violence with gentle moments of intimacy. Lagareh – The Last Born will play continuously throughout the day, and for visitors who wish to see it from the beginning, screening start times will be made available in the gallery and on the National Galleries of Scotland website.

Both the film and tapestry are framed within gate-like structures The Choir is waiting at the threshold and (pause), which divide and contain the spaces, drawing associations with enclosures, barriers or thresholds. Fabricated in steel the deep green colours of the metalwork are offset by stained glass panels in rippling purple and pink tones that nod to the colours of the glass lamps that shine across Venice. It is within these sculptural forms Alberta invites us to gather, to pause, reflect and remember.

At a time in history when it is not enough for the world to merely acknowledge global injustice, the exhibition invites us to unravel contested and difficult histories and creates an open space for conversation, hope, healing, and reconciliation. Building on themes established in previous work, this new exhibition demonstrates the artist’s unmatched ability to tell difficult, and often painful, stories with empathy, vulnerability, and an abundance of love, something the artist is intentional about.

Alberta Whittle said:

The luxury of amnesia is a really potent idea in my practice. For so long there was this complete reluctance and avoidance in discussing Scotland’s role within slavery and within plantation economies. There’s this sense that racism and police brutality is an English problem or an American problem, something that isn’t happening on these shores. There are ways in which the luxury of amnesia has been nurtured by Governments, by the stories we tell ourselves, by ways we find to avoid our own complicity with our own privilege – and it’s interesting to think about the conversations that are still missing. 

There’s a numbness that can happen when you just see names and that endless footage of George Floyd being murdered. I wanted to find a way to think about these ideas without re-traumatising myself or re-traumatising the audience, and I think there are other ways to do that – and that led me to really return to love. I wanted there to be that place for love in the work because it ends at such a place of sorrow when I think about the endless list of names that are growing.”

About the Artist:

Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, Alberta Whittle, lives and works in Glasgow and has been based in Scotland since moving here to study firstly at Edinburgh College of Art and later on the Master of Fine Arts programme at The Glasgow School of Art. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh and Research Associate at The University of Johannesburg.  Alberta was awarded a Turner Bursary, the Frieze Artist Award and a Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award in 2020. She was the Margaret Tait Award winner for 2018/19. Her work has been acquired by major public collections including the National Galleries of Scotland, Glasgow Museums Collections and the Contemporary Art Research Collection at Edinburgh College of Art, as well as by other private collections.