Himid, Lubaina (1 of 23).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2006-09-11, 2006-09-12, 2006-10-02, 2006-10-03, 2006-11-06, 2006-11-07, 2007-01-15, 2007-01-16

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Preston

  • Interviewees

    Himid, Lubaina, 1954- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: [Session One: 11 September 2006] [2:10:46] Lubaina Ramadhan Abdulla Himid [LH], born 25th July 1954 in Zanzibar, Tanzania; came to England age 5 months, Christmas Eve. Father had died, so mother brought LH back to family in England. Melancholy in early life and in LH’s work; trying to find sense of personal belonging, and recognition for diasporan people. Mother is English, studied at Royal College of Art [RCA], textile designer. Father from Comoran Islands; they met at university in London. LH’s birth in ‘white hospital’ in Zanzibar. Following father’s death from malaria; LH and mother lived in isolation for 40 days and nights. Melancholy in LH’s childhood. Family photographs. First lived with mother’s family in Blackpool; then with mother and her sister (LH’s aunt) in London. Relationship with aunt up to age 7; nursery school; learning to read. Aunt’s children are doctor, theatre administrator, teacher. Maternal grandparents were publicans; wealthy, enlightened, cultured. Mother and aunt’s upbringing; educated in London. Aunt played in orchestras and taught in schools; mother worked as textile designer. Living together in one house - wild parties, guests included African diplomats and students. [sound blip 16:41] Relationship with cousins. Mother’s name Laura Priestley [LP]; married Peter Priestley [PP] - real name Egon Lindenbaum - when LH age 10; PP died when LH age 22. Aunt Betty Bliss [BB], married to Arthur Bliss. PP was Jewish émigré from Europe; secular; accountant in textile industry - Jewish world. LH’s school in Maida Vale; 3rd of pupils were Jewish, separate assembly etc. Now living in Preston, misses rich diversity of London. Hallfield Junior School in Queensway; new building designed by [Denys Lasdun]. Failed interview for Camden Girls School; LH’s comment re-wanting to be famous. Paddington & Maida Vale High School for Girls; head girl. Loved school plays, art room, English. Not academic; being in bottom stream. Age 16 won Observer Poetry Prize; played cello; qualifications; being elected head girl. Interested in theatre and journalism; lack of career advice. Interview for stage management course at Central School of Speech & Drama; chose to talk about Chairman Mao. Wanted to change the world; interest in Brecht; studied theatre design at Wimbledon Art School. Foundation year; examples of LH’s work - ambitious, hard-working; wild social life. Lived at home, until moved in with older boyfriend, restaurateur Paul Tutton [PT]. Choosing theatre design over Fine Art. Has never taken drugs - reasons. Sexual relationships. LP’s values; response to LH ‘settling down’ with PT. Student friends included Richard Hudson [RH], Susan Oakes. [51:54] Relationship with PT. Being an artist, making work, has always come first in LH’s life. Going to work; has never taken days off school, art school etc. Always trying to be good; being an only child; developing own values. Reading Enid Blyton books as child; playing with neighbours’ sons; misbehaving. [1:04:56] LP’s maiden name Longworth; 18 months younger than BB. LH’s relationship with LP now. Conversations re-the art world. Difficulty being an artist as well as University Professor. Wants to be the kind of artist that changes systems in the art world, as well as making own art. [1:14:48] As child, weekend visits with LP to Whiteleys dept store, Hampstead shops, Tate, V&A, Matisse show at Hayward gallery. LP and BB’s record player; would have it serviced for parties. Beatles records; ‘Jukebox Jury’ on television. LP’s interest in popular culture, up-to-date fashions; commercial textile designer. LP’s furniture, clothes. LH’s clothes as teenager; didn’t want to look sexy, exotic. LP’s appearance. LH’s appearance as teenager; at ease with own body. Didn’t feel clever; being in ‘idiots class’ at school - although high quality teachers. At art school, ‘too clever’, more into politics than being intuitive. Only felt clever at around age 40. Reflects on school experience; class system evident in streaming; [interference] discovering Stanley Spencer’s work in school library. [1:39:41] Adolescence; no rows; painted and drew a lot; babysitting, looking round neighbours’ homes. Didn’t worry over personal safety; still feels safe in London. Learning about sex; met first boyfriend at Saturday morning art classes at Camden Arts Centre; also met future girlfriend [Marlowe Russell]. Making things from clay, metal - different from art in school; introduction to art school and sexual relationships. Learnt facts of life from BB. Has problem with politics of relationships with men; needs equality, negotiation in a relationship. Relationship with PT; his interest in making money; learning about politics of business; observing soap opera of the restaurant; working together, being creative. LH thought it would last forever; splitting up with PT, at age 26. Envisioned marriage, children, more restaurants, Hampstead lifestyle, own career. Decision to not have children subsequently. [2:10:46]

  • Related transcripts

    Lubaina Himid interviewed by Anna Dyke: full transcript of the interview

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