DXG #5: Thinking ‘The Idea of Black Culture’ Critically

Thursday 30 November 2023

Talk with The Otolith Group and Professor Gus John (online)

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Thursday 30 November 2023, 18:30 - 20:00
Booking required?

Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun of The Otolith Group are joined by scholar and activist Professor Augustine "Gus" John to discuss the idea of Black Culture inspired by Hortense Spillers’ landmark essay The Idea of Black Culture (2006).

This workshop forms part of The Ignorant Art School Sit-in Curriculum #3 programmed in collaboration with the Department for Xenogenesis.


The discussion is open to all and free to attend. Sign-up via Eventbrite

Participant information

This is a large capacity online session held on Zoom. After registering a free place via Eventbrite, participants will receive a Zoom meeting link.

The event will be live-captioned on Zoom


This event is open to all and free to attend. Book a space via Eventbrite. After registering a free place via Eventbrite, participants will receive a Zoom link.

The event will be live captions on Zoom.


Professor Augustine "Gus" John was born in Grenada and has lived mainly in the UK since 1964.  He was a member of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) in the mid-to-late 60s and a member of the Council of the Institute of Race Relations in the early 70s. He is a scholar/activist who has done notable work in the fields of education policy; the role of schooling and education in promoting social justice; school improvement; management and international development.  Since the 60s he has been active in issues of education and schooling in Britain's inner cities such as London, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow. 

Gus was a youth worker in London’s Notting Hill in the late 1960s. After a postgraduate diploma at the National College for the Training of Youth Leaders in Leicester, he conducted an action-research project in Handsworth, Birmingham, for the Runnymede Trust with a focus principally on young people and wrote the book Race in the Inner City.  Between 1973 and 1979, he led a research project for the National Association of Youth Clubs, sponsored by the Voluntary Services Unit at the Home Office. In 1981, he published the seminal report, In the Service of Black Youth - a study of the political culture of youth and community work with Black people in English cities. 

He was Assistant Education Officer and Head of Community Education in the Inner London Education Authority and in 1989 became the first African Director of Education in Britain, a post he held for just under 8 years. Prof John has worked in a number of university settings, including as Visiting Faculty Professor of Education at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow (for 10 years).  Since 2007, Gus John has been an associate professor of education and honorary fellow of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning at the UCL Institute of Education and from 2016, Visiting Professor at Coventry University, where he works with the Vice Chancellor and University Leadership Team in improving the strategic management of the University and building a culture of equity. 

In 1997, he was appointed adviser to former British Home Secretary, Jack Straw, on race and social inclusion and in that capacity worked with civil servants on the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.  In 1999, Gus John co-founded the Communities Empowerment Network (CEN), a charitable organisation providing advocacy and representation for excluded school students and their parents/carers.  He is now its Patron and Interim Chair.   Between 2003 and 2007, he evaluated the Race Equality Policy & Action Plan of every University/Higher Education Institute in England, Scotland and Wales for their respective funding councils and since then he has conducted equality audits for a number of universities, including Salford, Northumbria, Brunel and Cambridge.

Between 2001 and 2003, on behalf of the then Attorney General, he conducted a national review for the Crown Prosecution Service of prosecutors’ decision making at the case review stage, examining for any evidence of bias on the axis of gender and of race and wrote the report Race for Justice.

Since 2006 Gus John has been a member of the African Union's Technical Committee of Experts working on "modalities for reunifying Africa and its global diaspora", as part of its Sixth Region initiative. He has advised member states in Africa and the Caribbean on meeting the Sustainable Development Goals related to education and youth.  In 2016, he was named as one of the 30 most influential African diaspora leaders globally.

He submitted evidence to the Cross-Party Parliamentary Commission on youth violence, calling for, among other things, an end to school exclusions and a less punitive approach to children’s infractions: http://www.youthandpolicy.org/articles/apprehending-youth-violence/

In August 2018, Gus delivered the keynote address: Choices of the Living and the Dead to open the annual conference in Glasgow of the Archives and Records Association. In October 2018, he delivered an address on the challenges of decolonising the curriculum at a Black History Month symposium organised by Coventry University Students Union. Also, in October 2018, he delivered a public lecture at Warwick University on the relevance of Black History Month to Higher Education and the growing movement to decolonise the curriculum and decolonise higher education.

In December 2019, Professor John delivered the inaugural annual lecture of the British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society (BELMAS) at the UCL Institute of Education on decolonising the curriculum.

In 2020, he was listed as one of 100 Great Black Britons.

More recently, he advised upon and provided analysis for the Steve McQueen documentary films, Subnormal and Uprising.

In March 2022, he commented on what the response to violation of Child Q should be if our children are to be protected from schools and the police.

He is the author of, among other titles, Born to Be Great – a Charter for Raising the Achievement of Black Caribbean Boys and The Case for a Learner’s Charter for Schools, in which he argues that ALL schools should be required by law to operate in compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as with the Equality Act 2010.  His most recent publications (2023) are:

Blazing Trails - stories of a heroic generation and Don’t Salvage the Empire Windrush. Published by New Beacon Books, London.

Professor John is a columnist for the Jamaica Gleaner.

The Otolith Group is an award-winning artist led collective founded by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun in 2002.

Their moving image, audio works, performances and installations are characterized by an engagement with the legacies and potentialities of diasporic futurisms that explore modes of temporal anomalies, anthropic inversions and synthetic alienation.

Approaching curation as an artistic practice of building intergenerational and cross-cultural platforms, the collective has been influential in critically introducing particular works of artists such as Chris Marker, Harun Farocki, Anand Patwardhan, Etel Adnan, Black Audio Film Collective, Sue Clayton, Mani Kaul, Peter Watkins, and Chimurenga in the UK, US, Europe, and Lebanon.


The event will be live captions on Zoom.

All enquiries please contact: exhibitions@dundee.ac.uk

About the exhibition

...But There Are New Suns is the first major exhibition in Scotland by the Turner Prize nominated artist collective The Otolith Group; and is the third iteration of The Ignorant Art School: Five Sit-ins towards Creative Emancipation.

13 October – 16 December
Monday – Saturday, 12–5pm

Read more on our exhibition page.

Funding support

The Ignorant Art School at Cooper Gallery, DJCAD is supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland. 

Logo block. Cooper Gallery, DJCAD, Creative Scotland, National Lottery Funded

Cooper Gallery

Event type Gallery event
Event category Design and Art