30 July - 26 August, 2016 | FADA Gallery, University of Johannesburg



In The Front Room 'Inna Joburg' installation, UK based writer-artist-curator Michael McMillan recreates a traditional African-Caribbean family front room, where creolised material culture meets memory with bittersweet pride. In his recreated domestic interior, McMillan, who is British born of Caribbean migrant heritage, invokes his childhood experiences, as well as those of his family and their generation as they attempted to create a West Indian identity as immigrants in England during the 1960s.

The aesthetics of the front room reflects the everyday practice of ‘putting one’s best foot forward’; arrangement of the room is about ‘impression management’ in terms of hopes and dreams, respectability and consumer culture. The front room had to always look immaculate, because it was where the public world viewed the private world of the family. Upon entering the sensory space, visitors are invited to take a seat on upholstered sofas as they survey the drinks cabinet displaying rarely used glassware, artificial flowers, colourful crochet, pictures of The Last Supper, the exoticised ‘Tina’ and family portraits, all set against floral patterned wallpaper. They will also encounter oral history sound bites mixed with music ranging from Nat King Cole to Ska; from Calypso to Jim Reeves; from Reggae to Mariam Makeba.

The Front Room Inna Jo’burg installation is a component of Michael McMillan’s residency at VIAD from 27 June to 25 August 2016. During this time, McMillan will steer research, curation and a programme of activities and events, using the gallery’s experiential installation as a site for workshops, presentations and talks around oral history and material culture.

The research residency was funded by Arts Council England/British Council.

At the opening Checinska and McMillan presented a collaborative performance titled BACK A YARD, based on the stories, music, style, dress and objects that feature in their exhibitions.


About the BACK A YARD performance

Both Checinska and McMillan are British born of Caribbean migrant heritage and conceptually, their work converges around the aesthetics of the Post War migrant narratives through the material culture of the public and private domains: the dressed body and the adorned domestic interior. In their collaborative performance, the artists unpack themes of resistance through style, fashion and dress; and explore how self-respect and respect for others was expressed through aspirations in consumer culture.

Public Programme

17 August 2016, 18h00
Public walkabout of THE FRONT ROOM ‘INNA JOBURG’ and THE ARRIVANTS exhibitions with Michael McMillan

18 August 2016, 18h00
FADA Film: Screening of the BBC4 documentary video, Tales from the Front Room, followed by discussion with Michael McMillan

All events will took place at the FADA Gallery 

About Michael McMillan

As a writer, playwright, mixed-media artist, curator and scholar, Dr McMillan’s transdisciplinary practice explores migration, identity, gender, sexuality and hidden histories through ethnography, material culture, oral history, performances, texts, installation and audio-visual media.

Dr McMillan is a Research Associate in the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, University of Johannesburg; Associate Lecturer in Cultural & Historical Studies at London College of Fashion; and an EAS Associate Researcher (UAL). He is also a member of the Royal Literary Fund (RLF).