Sonia Boyce’s Devotional Collection, which began in 1999, is an ever-growing archive. It documents the cultural contribution Black British female musicians have made to international culture. As Boyce explains, ‘over 300 performers have been nominated by members of the public… as a form of collective knowledge-building; the roll call of names dates back to the mid-nineteenth century.
The Devotional Collection began when Boyce held a workshop in Liverpool with a group of women, giving them the opportunity to reflect on the first records they ever bought. Sonia then asked the group to name a black British female singer. For Boyce, it became critical to acknowledge that while the vocals of Black British women form the emotional soundtrack to millions of people’s lives, the memory of who these individual women are (or were) is often undervalued.
Boyce’s critically acclaimed exhibition, 'Feeling Her Way', presented by the British Council at the British Pavilion for the 59th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, running from 23 April – 27 November 2022, expands on the Devotional Collection.
Room Four of the exhibition is titled after the collection. Presented across the wall of gold wallpaper is a selection of items collected over six months in 2021. Photographs of singers adorn the cover sleeves of 12″ albums, 7″ singles, cassette tapes and CDs, all in their original packaging (including discounted price labels). Each is held up on gold sculptures that replicate the organic geometric forms of pyrite, and exhibition visitors can see themselves reflected in the gilded wall behind, part of an essential, yet unidentified music audience. Boyce includes her screen-printed portraits of Ajudha, Dankworth, Jernberg, Tikaram and Wallen, honouring their collaboration on this project.
To listen to music from artists who appear in Room Four of the Sonia Boyce’s 'Feeling Her Way' exhibition, check out our Sonia Boyce 'Feeling Her Way' playlist.