My Cultural Life: Lubaina Himid

The British artist and curator on what she’s reading, listening to and more

lubaina himid
Magda Stawarska-Beavan

British artist and curator Lubaina Himid has spent four decades amplifying Black and female experience through her figurative paintings, drawings and installations. Born in Zanzibar, she made history in 2017 as the first Black woman and oldest person to win the Turner Prize – an achievement she described as ‘bittersweet’ – before being awarded a CBE in the 2018 honours list. ‘Lubaina Himid’ is at Tate Modern until 3 July 2022.

My all-time favourite piece of music is Keith Jarrett’s The Köln Concert, which helped me to stay calm as I travelled to London when my mother was ill. I played sections of it at her funeral and never tire of listening to the colours and aching brilliance.

lubaina himid
Musician Keith Jarrett in 1973
Michael Ochs Archives

I’m currently listening to Ane Brun’s album It All Starts with One. She’s an amazing Norwegian songwriter of Sami origin.

The book that has influenced me the most is The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse, where I discovered the creative possibilities that emerge when trying to comprehend the essentials of music and mathematics. I also love Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, which helped me to understand the value and necessity of self-respect; and Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy, which taught me about communicating as an equal.

lubaina himid
Vintage Classics

I’m currently reading East Side Voices, which is a collection of essays celebrating East and Southeast Asian identity in Britain, edited by Helena Lee.

My best-loved quote is from Audre Lorde: ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’ It’s important to me, because I have to remind myself to be brave enough to do things in new ways and continue to invent a different model for ways of working, making and living my life.

I spend far too much time watching Premier League football.

My favourite galleries are The House at Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge and The Serpentine, which has been a favourite for many years. Its relationship with the park and proximity to the V&A make it a kind of jewel in the crown for me.

lubaina himid
Art house and gallery Kettle’s Yard
Paul Allitt

The best exhibition I’ve ever seen was Theaster Gates’ ‘Black Madonna’ at Kunstmuseum Basel in 2018. There have been so many shows that I’ve loved over the years, including several Betye Saar exhibitions and the amazing ‘Soul of a Nation’ at Tate Modern in 2017 – huge names in African-American art showing deeply considered work, changing the way we understand ourselves.

I collect Yaccomaricard shirts, because they are always exquisitely made and usually fit me well. Along with black or grey jeans, they’re all I want to wear.

If I won the lottery, I’d buy Romare Bearden’s The Block, which is in the Met in New York.

My favourite place in the world is Zanzibar – while I’m there I like to pretend that I’d never left.

This year, I’m looking forward to spending time in my studio making paintings on paper of boats, wooden cut-outs for a lost opera, and silkscreen prints exploring the complexities of the woven object. I’d like to begin to explore Japan and learn more about woodblock prints of women by Utamaro from the late 18th century. lubainahimid.uk

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