This series was originally commissioned by the Hyman Collection in 2019 as exhibited in our In Focus gallery upstairs. This special postcard edition was first presented in PHOTO50: BEAUTIFUL EXPERIMENTS 2023, curated by Katy Barron and Pelumi Odubanjo.
The Hyman Collection commissioned Heather Agyepong to respond to early twentieth century postcard imagery reflecting the dance craze in Europe known as The Cakewalk. The resulting series was named Wish You Were Here (2020).
Wish You Were Here focuses on the work of Aida Overton Walker, the celebrated African American vaudeville performer who challenged the rigid and problematic narratives of black performers. She was known as the Queen of the Cakewalk which was a dance craze that swept America and Europe in the early 1900s.
The Cakewalk was originally performed by enslaved people who mocked and mimicked the slaveholders and high society. The dance involved couples in square formations, strutting, prancing and high-kicking. It is unclear whether the slave holders understood the connotation but nevertheless enjoyed the performances so much that they held contests for the performers. After emancipation, this dance grew in popularity. It continued to be performed in dance contests by African Americans to white audiences, with the best performers awarded cake.
Wish You Were Here is not just about history, it is also about contemporary issues around health and well-being.
Please ask us for more information about the large scale editioned work.