• 26 February 2019
  • 1:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

This session explores some of my initial research findings on the art and life history of Berto Pasuka. Pasuka was a Black queer Jamaican dancer, choreographer, director, performer, writer, and painter. He moved to Britain in 1939 and his work in mid-twentieth century Britain, Jamaica and France focused on themes of Black diasporic history, colonialism and racism, and Black social, spiritual and cultural lives and identities. In 1946 he co-founded the Black ballet company Les Ballets Nègres, along with queer Jamaican dancer and artist Richie Riley. In 1953 after the disbandment of the company he moved to Paris, where he continued to perform and to work as an artist model. He also trained as a painter, in 1959 exhibiting at the 70th exhibition of the Société des artistes indépendants at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées. He then returned to London in 1960 where he exhibited twenty-eight pieces of his work in a solo exhibition in autumn 1960. Pasuka died in London in 1963. This research, carried out during a Paul Mellon Mid-Career Fellowship, will result in a biography of Pasuka, focusing on his artistic life as a Black queer man in mid-century Europe.

Image credit: Berto Pasuka, Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University.

The Fellows Lunchs are a series of talks given by recipients of Paul Mellon Centre Fellowships. Lunch is provided and all are welcome but please book a ticket in advance.

About the speaker

  • Dr. Gemma Romain is an independent historian specialising in Caribbean and Black British history, with a focus on archives and queer Black British histories. She has curated and co-curated a number of exhibitions and displays relating to Caribbean and Black British history including the 2014-2015 Tate Britain display ‘Spaces of Black Modernism: London 1919–39’, co-curated with Dr. Caroline Bressey. She is the author of the book Race, Sexuality and Identity in Britain and Jamaica: The Biography of Patrick Nelson, 1916-1963 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), which will be published in paperback in March 2019. In 2018 she was awarded a Paul Mellon Centre Mid-Career Fellowship for her new project Berto Pasuka and Queer Black British Art