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This Week in Black Art and Culture: Guess Cancels Production of Knockoff, Benin Bronzes Will go Home

Above: Matt Neale from UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

This week in Black art and culture, the focus has been on reparations and well-earned acknowledgements. Actor Noel Clarke is being honored at the BAFTAs for almost 20 years of outstanding work. Artist Dominic Chambers will be represented by Robert Projects. Guess has stopped production and sales of its Telfar look-alike. The University of Aberdeen in Scotland Yard is officially returning the bust of the ruler of Benin, known as the Oba.

Guess Caught in Scandal with Telfar Knockoff

As revealed by several social media users, Guess, Inc. has been caught selling a bag in the style of Telfar, a Black-owned fashion label. Just this week, influencers found striking parallels between Telfar’s iconic vegan leather shopping bag and Guess’ G-Logo totes, all of which have a long zipper, short handle and square-shaped bodies. Like the Telfar packs, which have an overlapping T and C emblem, the Guess edition overlaps the brand’s G initial enclosed by a circle.

In 2020, the Telfar bag was so famous that Oprah put it on her list of “favorite items.” Telfar Clemens and Babak Radboy officially created the label, “Telfar” in 2005, and this past year, they surged to the top of the list of the most in-demand luxury items.
With their second bag security program event this past Tuesday and Wednesday, everyone has been trying to grab their “Telfeezy” to show off this summer.

In a few hours, the internet had taken note and tended to largely support Telfar’s design, condemning Guess for what they said was unabashed counterfeiting. The co-owners of the brand hadn’t and still have not made an official statement personally. Although they knew of it in February, they took to letting the public take its own stance. At the time, Radboy told The New York Times that they weren’t afraid of it—and didn’t want to draw attention to it. He added, “The public could decide for us.” Guess’ handbag licenser had pulled the bag from sale by March 29, 2021, and the company released a response, stating:

“Signal Brands, the handbag licensee of Guess, Inc., has voluntarily halted the sale of its G-Logo totes. Some on social media have compared the totes to Telfar Global’s shopping bags. Signal Brands does not wish to create any impediments to Telfar Global’s success and, as such, has independently decided to stop selling the G-logo totes.”

Return of Benin’s Artifacts Underway

The University of Aberdeen in Scotland announced that it is exporting to Nigeria one of many Benin Bronzes, which were plundered by British powers in the 19th century and scattered across Europe, becoming the first organization to commit to the complete repatriation of a Benin bronze from a museum, a few days after Berlin’s Humboldt Forum museum said it is pursuing the return of its Benin Bronzes.

The University of Aberdeen purchased the bronze sculpture portraying a Benin Oba (king) was at an auction in 1957. Benin City was the capital of the Edo people’s dominant and long-lasting empire in West Africa, famed for its high-quality metalworking heritage from at least the 17th century. British invasion in Africa eventually reached Benin, the city then being pillaged and devastated in 1897 by a British military expedition known as the “Benin Punitive Expedition.” The royal palace was sacked and destroyed, and the Oba, Ovonramwen Nogbaisi, was sent into exile.

Godwin Obaseki, the new governor of Edo State in Nigeria, where the ancient kingdom of Benin lies, is a sponsor of the planned Edo Museum of West African History. This new museum, which will house the bust, is slated to be part of an unprecedented cultural complex that will involve the Oba’s palace and other cultural heritage facilities. It is being carried out through the creation of an autonomous trust, The Legacy Restoration Trust, by the Edo State Government in partnership with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments and the Royal Benin Palace. Sir David Adjaye, the revered Ghanaian-British architect, planned this cultural center.

Dominic Chambers Represented by Gallery


Above: Dominic Chambers, Summers not as long as it used to be, 2019
Oil on canvas.

Roberts Projects has announced their representation of New Haven-based artist Dominic Chambers.

Chambers incorporates narratives from numerous mythologies and Black culture, and excerpts from books to paint his pieces. His everyday life includes inquiries into the Black psyche, and is conducted in a contemplative manner during his spare time, as well as through conversations with colleagues. Since childhood, literature and the dialectics of language have been significant in his life and work.

In his figurative paintings, Chambers tries to associate history, painting, and the longed-for (imagined) desires to lend his ideas context.

His latest series, influenced by his work, After Albers, broadens modernist research into identification and interpretation to include figures. Most of his subjects in his Main Sorcery and Wash paintings turn in a way that defies explanation. There are visually and factually oriented paintings in the final product.

Born in 1993 in St. Louis, Missouri, Chambers currently resides in New Haven, Connecticut. He completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Milwaukee Institute of Art in 2016 and obtained his Master of Fine Arts in 2018. Chambers recently has shown work in Turin, Italy, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, and Roberts Projects gallery in Los Angeles, as well as the August W. Wilson Cultural Center in Pittsburgh. His future events include a solo performance in Luce, Italy.

Chambers has already invested time in a variety of residencies, including the Norfolk Summer Residency in New Haven and the New York Studio Program. A major survey is in the works for the artist, and a catalog is being assembled which has been announced for 2022.

Noel Clarke to Receive BAFTA Accolade

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) revealed that Noel Clarke, an award-winning actor, producer, editor and director, would be honored with the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema Award at the 74th EE British Academy Film Awards. The award will be presented in London on Saturday, April 10, as part of the EE BAFTA Film Awards opening night ceremony.

Noel Clarke has played a crucial role in bringing diversity to British screens in front of and behind the camera, driving underrepresented talent and storylines to the forefront of film and television after his first TV show nearly two decades ago in the pioneering Channel 4 show, Metrosexuality.

Clarke captivated viewers from the start, receiving the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Newcomer for his role in the Royal Court play, Where Do We Live.

He wrote and starred in the cult film trilogy, Hood, Kidulthood (2006), Adulthood (2008), and Brotherhood (2016), the latter two of which he directed. The award-winning films followed the lives of troubled teens growing up in West London.

In 2009, he won the BAFTA Rising Star Award.

On television, he is most known for playing Mickey Smith in Doctor Who and Wyman Norris in Auf, Wiedersehen, Pet.

Clarke co-founded Unstoppable Entertainment in 2007, eventually combining forces with fellow actor/producer Jason Maza. Their mission is to promote new, developing and diverse voices. Since then, the studio has released over 10 feature films, including Jessica Hynes’ directorial debut, The Battle and Suzi Ewing’s 10×10, which stars Luke Evans and Kelly Reilly.

In 2018, the organization partnered with All3Media to launch Unstoppable Film and Television in order to broaden their reach to cover television.

Clarke co-created and stars in Sky One’s massively influential original drama, Bulletproof with Ashley Walters, which has become one of Sky’s top-rated shows since its premiere in 2018. The series officially has been renewed for a fourth season and will begin shooting later this year.

Clarke currently is starring in the Sky Cinema original film, SAS: Red Notice alongside Sam Heughan, Andy Serkis and Tom Wilkinson, and can next be seen as the protagonist in the upcoming ITV drama, Viewpoint, which is set to premiere this spring.

His other film credits include J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness, the cult film Heartless, the crime drama The Corrupted, the romantic comedy, Fisherman’s Friends, and Twist, which was made under the Unstoppable banner and will be released on Sky Cinema in January 2021.

– Compiled by Sumaiyah E. Wade