SOUTHEND based artist, activist and producer Elsa James is to have her first major solo exhibition at Focal Point Gallery this summer.

Titled ‘Othered In A Region That Has Been Historically Othered’, the work "celebrates James' unique artistic practice and her continuing investigation into what it means to be black in Essex".

A spokesman for the gallery in Elmer Square, Southend, said: "James has been gathering a significant body of work over the last few years and she is establishing a reputation for thought-provoking, challenging ideas.

"Her first solo exhibition is also her most ambitious work to date.

‘Othered In A Region That Has Been Historically Othered’ opens, most fittingly, in her home city of Southend.

"It is from here, that James has fought a campaign with fellow Southend women against the stereotype on the ‘Essex Girl.’

"Essex has been ‘othered’ nationally as a county with little class and less culture, brash and brazen, presented in the media as the awkward relative of the more refined Home Counties.

To be black in Essex is to an outsider in a place already outside the norm.

"The new exhibition features a major three-part film installation and original sound works, alongside text and new series of prints.

"These focus on James’ own experience, combined with the untold stories of past and current residents of Essex.

"James has undertaken extensive historical research to ensure the accuracy of her work and to reveal the hidden history of black men and women in a county that has always been stereotyped and dismissed."

A new sound work will accompany visitors as they pass from one gallery to the next that "evokes the forced displacement of black people and identity under the transatlantic slave trade".

The FPG spokesman added: "As an activist, James’ work seeks to encourage audiences to reconsider long held and misdirected perceptions and widespread stories about Essex, by reflecting upon their own identity within the county and as individuals.

"This new body of work recognises and supports black residents, breaking down a collective mindset and attitude held about Essex and its people.

"Whilst her work deliberately starts with the individual, place-based experience, the themes, and experiences James is dealing with provoke wider collective, understanding across the UK, and

indeed globally."

Elsa James has presented, screened and exhibited projects nationally and online including RadicalxChange Conference, New York; Site Gallery, Sheffield and Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London.

She was selected as one of four co-curators for the live digital opening weekend for Estuary 2021, was shortlisted for the 2021 Freelands Award and her work recently acquired as part of Art XUK for the Government Art Collection.