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THE PANELS

A Comedy of Race’s panels are integrated into the installation - their visual vocabulary references the portraits’ colour scheme, narratives and characterisations. Their composition was modelled on the didactic arrangements of medieval Books of Hours and Ancient Han Shrine carvings. The seventeenth-century panel expresses the power dynamics and ideological significance of the binary of “natural buffoon”/Moorish Other and “artificial buffoon”/Christian hero. The twentieth-century panel marks the increased agency of black comedians over their representation, the enduring presence of racist caricatures and the difficulties of integration. The symbol of the black subject transforms across them, identified and linked to the portraits by its red colouring. It begins as a bull, a one-dimensional symbol of brute strength and anger. Paralleling the increased agency of the black person over representations of their race, in the twentieth-century panels, the bull becomes a rabbit. A complex character - unpredictable, indefensible and a trickster. On the top left hand-side of the panel the rabbit tries to free himself from the black tar baby, an allegory for the struggle against the racist characterisations and prejudices which frustrate the progress and integration of black people.