Soviet poster from 1920, part of the Wayland Rudd Archive. Courtesy of Yevgeniy Fiks 620
Soviet poster from 1920, part of the Wayland Rudd Archive. Courtesy of Yevgeniy Fiks

East London’s only gallery dedicated to contemporary Russian culture has reopened, and the inaugural season for new look space is dedicated to the legacy of cultural exchange between Africa, the Soviet Union and related countries during the 20th century.

Red Africa will see a range of living artists’ responses to the relationships forged during this period, incorporating film, public art, propaganda and photography.

Exhibition Things Fall Apart is the highlight of the season, drawing on film, photography, propaganda and public art to present interdisciplinary reflections on African connections to the Soviet Union and related countries.

Taking its title from Chinua Achebe’s 1958 post-colonial novel, the exhibition reaches back to the beginning of the Soviet era through the work of Russian-American artist Yevgeniy Fiks.

Fiks examines representations of black people in Soviet press and propaganda from as early as 1920.

Contemporary traces of communist street art and propaganda are captured by Jo Ractliffe and Kiluanji Kia Henda, revealing the legacy of liberation struggles on the continent, while Our Africa, by filmmaker Alexander Markov, uses footage from the Russian State Film and Photo archive to expose the mechanisms behind the creation of Soviet propaganda films that sought to record the expansion of ‘glorious socialism’ across the African continent.

Things Fall Apart – Red Africa is at Calvert 22, 22 Calvert Avenue, E2 7JP until 3 March
calvert22.org

Soviet poster from 1932, part of the Wayland Rudd Archive. Courtesy of Yevgeniy Fiks 620
Soviet poster from 1932, part of the Wayland Rudd Archive. Courtesy of Yevgeniy Fiks

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