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Re-Imagining Cole

Black Oxford in association with the Bodleian Libraries

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG
United Kingdom

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The Re-Imagining Cole symposium will examine the background, context and depictions of previously unseen caricatures of Christian Frederick Cole, Oxford University’s first Black African Scholar 1873, and the first Black African to practise Law in the English High Court 1884.  The symposium will explore why Cole and his historic achievements were only portrayed in the form of parodies, given Cole contemporaries were afforded the respect and visibility of their accomplishments commemorated through portraits or statues.

The symposium will also explore Victorian portraits c. 1873 - 1890, examining the broader issues of race and representation in portrait art. Who were the ‘notable’ figures of the day that had portraits commissioned and painted?  Did any comparable Black ‘notable’ figures have their portraits painted?   Did Cole have a picture commissioned and painted?

Finally, the symposium will pose the following questions:

  • should Cole’s image be re-imagined, if so, why?
  • what should a re-imagined image tell an audience, who decides?
  • if an image of Cole was to be reimagined, what medium would be the most appropriate and fitting to communicate Cole’s significant achievements?

with a panel of art historians, artists and academics including:

  • Dr Temi Odumosu, Malmo University, Africans in English Caricature, 1769-1819: Black Jokes, White Humour.
  • Dr Robin Darwall-Smith, University College, University of Oxford  A History of University College, Oxford.
  • Robert Taylor, Photographer, Portraits of Achievement
  • Colin Harris, The Shrimpton Collection
  • Pamela Roberts, The Untold Stories of Oxford University’s Black Scholars

£5 per person

£3 - concessions (over 60, student, unwaged) includes lunch.

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