Activist Sara Myers Releases Statement Addressing The Cancellation Of The Controversial ‘Exhibit B’ (Human Zoo) Exhibition

The woman who started the ball rolling, journalist and activist Sara Myers. Photo Credit: Mike Blythe

The woman who started the ball rolling, journalist and activist Sara Myers. Photo Credit: Mike Blythe

Once again, well done to Sara Myers who was the first to bring attention to Brett Bailey (click here to read all about this character), and the suspect ‘Exhibit B’ that masquerades as “art”.

After a month of protest, discussion and debate, #boycottthehumanzoo achieved its objective of ensuring that Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit B’ was withdrawn.

What began as online petition requesting that the exhibition be withdrawn was concluded with a fantastic display of people power. Over 23,000 people signed the petition and the campaign was backed by anti-racism organisations throughout the country. Despite this, the Barbican was determined to go ahead with the exhibition and used a number of tactics to undermine the campaign and its members.

#boycottthehumanzoo not only successfully prevented the event taking place but uncovered a deeper problem within the Barbican. Each time the campaign was addressed, Barbican, Brett Bailey and their supporters, relied on the stereotypical misconceptions of the Black community to preserve their position. Campaigners were branded uneducated, lacking in culture and described as a ‘baying mob’ by the artist himself. #boycottthehumanzoo predicted that these stereotypes would be relied upon once more should the event be cancelled and of course, Barbican did not miss the opportunity to insult the campaign one last time citing ‘fears for the safety of actors and staff’ as their reason for the withdrawal. #boycottthehumanzoo would like to make it clear that at no point during the protest was anyone hurt or threatened. Police attended the scene after reports of violence, but seeing that the blockade remained peaceful, made no arrests.

The barricading of The Vaults occurred because the Black community refuses to have racism defined for them by wealthy, white liberals. It occurred because Barbican’s vanity would not permit them to admit that they had made a mistake but most importantly it occurred because the Black community were prepared to stand up for the ancestors who paved the way to our freedom.

Whilst #boycottthehumanzoo acknowledges this victory against racism and white superiority, we also see this is just the beginning. ‘Exhibit B’ revealed that the art industry is riddled with white privilege and elitism, the very issues the exhibit was said to challenge. Our observations during the course of the campaign will be the driving force behind a fresh movement to defeat the white supremacist ideals of Barbican and similar arts institutions to ensure that the next generation of young Black Britons will have equal access to and equal success within the art industry as their white counterparts.

#boycottthehumanzoo The show did NOT go on.

South African artist/director Brett Bailey seen here positioning a performer Photo credit: Sofie Knijff

South African artist/director Brett Bailey seen here positioning a performer. Photo Credit: Sofie Knijff

5 replies »

  1. well done to those who campaigned. Todays panelist on the Matthew Wright Show were like oh its sad those who wanted to see it couldnt bla bla bla. I look forward to seeing more of the Black community coming together like this.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with the stance that Sara Myers and the coalition of anti-racism organisation in the UK have taken against ‘Exhibit B’. I signed the petition, joined the on-street protests and have documented all the reasons why the Barbican and Brett Bailey’s project is both overtly and structurally racist in this article on my blog Museum Geographies ( at

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September 2014
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