Birmingham City Council

Vanley Burke

For those interested in the study of black people in Britain, the Vanley Burke collection is one of the City Archive's most significant bodies of material.

Born in Jamaica in 1951, Vanley moved to Birmingham in 1965, armed with a camera given to him by his grandmother. He began taking photographs of the Handsworth area of the city and over the past thirty years has been steadily adding to the collection.

His first exhibition entitled Handsworth from Inside, was displayed at Grove Lane Junior School in 1970.

Vanley's images document daily life in the city, from children playing in Handsworth Park to shoppers on the Soho Road. However, the collection also includes photos of public events in the lives of Birmingham's African Caribbean community, of protest and solidarity marches that have equally been a part of the story of contemporary black Britain.

He was also in South Africa shortly after the release of Nelson Mandela, and the shots taken during this and later trip in 1996 formed the exhibition Nkunzi (the Zulu word for black; during his visits, Vanley was known as nkunzi myama, the black bull), shown at Soho House and the Central Library in 1998.

As well as his photographs, Vanley has expanded the collection to include ephemera such as street hoardings, posters, advertisements fliers and menus, material that is all too rarely preserved. For Vanley: "This exercise forms part of a documentation process which we as black people need to go through and is not (just) an attempt to show the black community to the wider community."


This section on Vanley Burke was originally part of a Millennibrum supplement in the Birmingham Post Wednesday November 1, 2000.


Black History in Birmingham Libraries
Handsworth area
Protest and solidarity marches
Nkunzi Exhibition
Posters
The Vanley Burke Archive

See more photographs by Vanley Burke on the Connecting Historieswebsite