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Islam B-Boys - Brixton

  • Object:

    photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Brixton (photographed)
    London (photographed)

  • Date:

    1987 (photographed)
    2011 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Normski, born 1966 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fujifilm C-type print

  • Credit Line:

    Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

  • Museum number:

    E.111-2012

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case SP, shelf 2

Norman ‘Normski’ Anderson was born in Northwest London in 1966 and became a documenter of British youth culture in the 1980s and 1990s. As part of the UK hip hop scene during this period he photographed fashion associated with the music style.

B-Boying is considered one of four original elements of hip hop, alongside rapping, DJing and graffiti. The term refers to break-boying; a style of street dance that originated in New York, largely among African Americans in the early 1970s. References to B-Boys in popular songs by American hip hop artists like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys caused it to become used in Britain in the 1980s to describe people associated with the dance style or the hip hop scene in general.

The B-Boy style and attitude was adopted by a wide variety of British youth. It was often seen as a modern expression of black consciousness, which can be appreciated in the T-shirt featuring the African American activist Malcolm X worn by one of the Islam B-Boys. The B-Boy stance of leaning back with arms tightly folded was made famous by Run DMC. B-Boy fashion often featured branded trainers and baggy sports clothing, which would be customised to reflect individual identity.

The V&A acquired seven photographs by Normski as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives. A photograph by Jennie Baptiste titled ‘Brixton Boyz’, which explores the use of branded designer clothes to make fashion statements, was also acquired as part of Staying Power.

Physical description

A colour photograph of two teenage black boys standing against a wall in a street with a no entry sign next to it. They wear long coats, white caps and white trainers with three black stripes on the sides. One boy holds open his coat to reveal a white T-shirt which reads 'BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY', 'MALCOLM X' and has a pictures of Malcolm X on it. He also wears white and black trousers with diamond shapes and 'V' shapes on them. The other boy's clothes are black; his trousers are the same as the boy next to him but with the pattern colours reversed. He has his arms folded and is grinning.

Place of Origin

Brixton (photographed)
London (photographed)

Date

1987 (photographed)
2011 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Normski, born 1966 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Fujifilm C-type print

Dimensions

Height: 56.0 cm Image size, Width: 36.5 cm Image size, Height: 68.0 cm Paper size, Width: 57.0 cm Paper size

Object history note

The V&A acquired this photograph as part of the Staying Power project. Staying Power is a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives. The project aims to explore black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs acquired by the V&A and oral histories conducted by Black Cultural Archives.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Normski, 'Islam B-Boys - Brixton', C-type print, London, 1987, printed 2011

Labels and date

Text label for the exhibition, 'Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience, 1950s-1990s
16 February – 24 May 2015

Normski (born 1966)
Islam B-Boys – Brixton
African Homeboy – Brixton
She Rockers (London Rap/Dance Crew), Shepherd’s Bush Green
1987 – 88

Norman ‘Normski’ Anderson was part of the hip-hop
music scene of the 1980s. He photographed British youth
culture for magazines including The Face, i-D and Vogue.
The hip-hop style was seen as a modern expression of black
consciousness. It often combined branded sports clothing
with items that reflected black heritage, such as the West
African fabric, or Kente cloth, modelled here by the ‘African
Homeboy’.

C-type prints (printed 2011)
Museum nos. E.110 to 112-2012 [16/02/2015-24/05/2015]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

C-type process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Cultural identity; Identity; Racial politics; Religion; Teenagers; Trainers; Youth

Categories

Photographs; Men's clothes; Portraits; Religion; Politics; Fashion; African Diaspora; Black History; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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