The Front Room ‘Inna Joburg’

: A hybrid intervention

  • Michael McMillan Research Associate, Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg.
Keywords: Hybrid, intervention, trans-diasporic subjectivity, creolisation, front room


The material culture of the front room, created by the Windrush generation from 1948 through to the 1960s, and later by black British families, expresses a shift from the “sacred” codes of respectability, propriety and decorum, to the “profane” stylistic signification of modernity and consumer culture. This dynamic formed the basis of an installation-based exhibition entitled The West Indian Front Room: Memories and Impressions of Black British Homes (WIFR) (2005-2006, Geffrye Museum, London) that I guest-curated. The exhibition evoked and invoked a range of responses from a diverse range of audiences. Many of the responses from black British visitors spoke to their lived experience of the material culture of the front room. In recognition of thetranscultural appeal of the installation, subsequent iterations of The Front Room (TFR) were staged in various locations, the most recent being an installation-based exhibition entitled The Front Room ‘Inna Joburg’ (TFRiJ) (2016, FADA Gallery, Johannesburg). Instead of focusing on the end product, in this article I concentrate on the process  through which it was created, looking at how WIFR’s theoretical framework and other TFR iterations informed the curatorial intentions, as well as what practical strategies were developed to support the curation, production and public engagement activities of TFRiJ. Rather than seeing TFRiJ as a replication of WIFR, through this approach, I revisit the process that led to it becoming a “hybrid intervention”.