Black Cantabs: History Makers at Trinity

Trinity College is hosting an exhibition of Cambridge’s iconic black graduates – complete with new portraits of Ofcom CEO Sharon White and current Trinity students.

‘Black Cantabs: History Makers’ will be in Trinity’s Antechapel, 6 – 31 March 2019,  telling the stories of black students in Cambridge, from forgotten pioneers of centuries past to the student successes of today.

Featuring trailblazers from the first black British Army Officer, Trinity student David Clemetson, to the first black director of the UK’s media watchdog, Sharon White, viewers will get a second chance to see the collection of portraits featuring famous faces such as Thandie Newton and Naomie Harris alongside rare archival images, including of Princess Elizabeth Bagaaya.  The portraits were originally displayed at Cambridge University Library in autumn 2018.

David Clemetson was one of the first black officers in the British Army.

David Clemetson came to Britain from Jamaica, studying law at Trinity from 1912. He enlisted at the start of the First World War, in the Sportsmen’s Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Despite military law at the time, he rose to the rank of Lieutenant – one of a handful of black officers in the British Army. Tragically, David was killed on 21 September 1918.

‘Black Cantabs: History Makers’ seeks to reinvigorate the tradition of portraiture in Cambridge colleges that students see on a daily basis. The exhibition was curated by the University of Cambridge and the Black Cantabs Research Society, a student group dedicated to telling the lost or forgotten stories of Cambridge’s black alumni.

Wanipa Ndhlovu photographed in Trinity’s Chapel by Graham CopeKoga

Trinity is building on the initiative by commissioning photographic portraits of current black undergraduate and postgraduate students at the College. These portraits will join the exhibition as they are created throughout March.

Trinity College Students’ Union BME Officer, Wanipa Ndhlovu, is in her first year of Law at Trinity. She said:

It fills me with immense pride that Trinity will be hosting this exhibition. The amount of excellence emanating from Cambridge’s black alumni is very empowering.

That my face is going to be up there is slightly daunting; I feel undeserving to be featured alongside such greatness! But my overwhelming feeling is joy, and I hope that I’ll leave a legacy that one day will be looked back at. I want others to be inspired to look more into Cambridge’s rich black history and I hope other black students will know that their stories can shape the history of the University.

Black Cantabs Research Society President, Surer Mohamed, said:

Black Cantabs: History Makers demonstrates the indelible mark that black alumni of the University of Cambridge have had here, and across the globe. This celebrates the Black Cantabs who have come before, and hopefully demonstrates to prospective black students that they do have a home in Cambridge. It’s a remarkable opportunity!

The exhibition is open during Trinity’s visiting hours, 10-5pm daily.* Entrance to Trinity for visitors is £3 per person. Members of Cambridge University can visit free of charge (please bring ID).  

 *The College may be closed to visitors from time to time. Current closure days include Tuesday 19 March, Saturday 23 March and Saturday 30 March.  Generally, please call the Porters Lodge on 01223 338544 to check before starting your journey.

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