Huddersfield, Kirklees Metropolitan Borough Council, West Yorkshire, Yorkshire and the Humber
Residence: London, Greater London, London, England
Ajamu X (born Huddersfield, 1963) is a British artist, curator, archivist and activist. He best known for his fine art photography, which explores same-sex people and the Black male body, and his work as an archivist and activist to document the lives and experiences of black LGBTQ people in the UK.
Early life and work
Ajamu was born in Huddersfield to Jamaican parents. He studied Black History and photography in Leeds. While in Leeds he and two friends, created the magazine BLAC, an acronym for Black Liberation Activist Core. In October 1987, after seeing it advertised in the newspaper Caribbean Times, Ajamu attended the first, and only, National Black Gay Men’s Conference held at the Black Lesbian and Gay Centre in Camden. By January the following year, he had moved to London. He was given the name Ajamu in 1991; it means “he who fights for what he believes”.
My name Ajamu X is a reference to Malcolm X who was my first key role model. Changing my name to an African one was very significant. — Ajamu X
His first major exhibition Black Bodyscapes, in 1994, focused on the realities of black gay men. More recent projects include Fierce: Portraits of Young Black Queers. an exhibition of 24 portraits of a “…new generation of Black and proudly out young, emerging and established talent” at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery in 2014 and I Am For You Can Enjoy with Khalil West, at Contact Theatre, Manchester, in 2016, which uses photography and video, to explore the lives of queer Black people. Ajamu has described himself as an “artist who has created an archive” and, in addition to his art practice, continues to document black LGBT experiences.
“Write and record everything you do; no-one is going to write our histories for us.” — Ajamu X
In 2000 Ajamu and Topher Campbell co-founded rukus! Federation an ” arts company dedicated to celebrating and showcasing the best in challenging, provocative works by black lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender artists nationally and internationally.” Ajamu was the Archive Manager “The Black LGBT Archive Project”, a major initiative to develop an archive collection on “Black Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-Gender heritage, history and lived experience in the UK”. In 2008 Ajamu co-curated the exhibition Outside Edge: a journey through Black lesbian and gay history at the Museum of Docklands. The rukus! Black Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Cultural Archive was deposited at London Metropolitan Archives in 2010.
His fine art photography is in national and international collections including the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, Autograph ABP, and the Neuberger Museum of Art in New York. Ajamu is co-chair of Centred, an LGBTQ community organisation, in London’s Soho.
2016 Khalil West and Ajamu – I Am For You Can Enjoy, Contact Theatre, Manchester (4 February – 18 June 2016)
2013 Fierce – Portraits of Young Black LGBTQ people by Ajamu, Guildhall Art Gallery, London
2012 Future Histories, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow
2011 Queer Self Portraits Now, Fred, London
2010 Photoshow, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York
2009 Familiar Strangers, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow
2004 Hidden Histories, Walsall New Art Gallery,England
1997 Transforming the Crown, Caribbean Cultural Centre, New York.
1994 Black Bodyscapes, Camerawork, London
1992 From Where I Stand, Brixton Art Gallery, London
2016 Curatorial Resident, Visual AIDS, New York
2008 Outside Edge: a journey through black British lesbian and gay history, Museum of Docklands, London
“Khalil West and Ajamu – I Am For You Can Enjoy”. Contact Theatre. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
“Queer Self Portraits Now”. Artlyst. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
Eddie Chambers (29 July 2014). Black Artists in British Art: A History since the 1950s. I.B.Tauris. ISBN 978-0-85773-608-6.
^ Melanie Keen; Elizabeth Ward; Institute of International Visual Arts (1996). Recordings: a select bibliography of contemporary African, Afro-Caribbean and Asian British art. Institute of International Visual Arts and Chelsea College of Art and Design. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-899846-06-1.
“Introducing 2016 Visual AIDS Curatorial Resident Ajamu”. Visual AIDS. 17 February 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2016.
“Who works on an exhibition like Outside Edge?”. Museum of London – blog. Retrieved 13 April 2016.