Watch Fresh Meat's Zawe Ashton's Short Film About Black Female Identity

To celebrate the Tate Modern's new Soul of a Nation exhibition, the actress meets Lorraine O'Grady, an active voice in the feminist art movement of 1970s New York

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'We've done shows about American art for decades – it was a question of why hadn't we done one on African-American art?' Mark Godfrey said to the BBC last week.

Godfrey is the co-curator of Soul of A Nation, the Tate Modern's latest exhibition which traces over 20 years of black art, and he's right. When you think of the 'great' American artist, you think of Jeff Koons. Or Jackson Pollock. Even photographer Cindy Sherman.

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To correct this, the Tate have shone a light on all the important work created by Black artists from 1963 (kicking off with Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream Speech' at the height of the Civil Right Movement) through to 1983. The exhibition covers 20 years, and brings together some 150 works by more than 60 mainly African-American artists.

Speaking on the relevance of Soul of a Nation, co-curator Zoe Whitley told Dazed Digital: 'We deserve to give these artists their due and to acknowledge what they've given to not only the history of art but also the history of art in America. The questions they were asking connect so much to how we live and how we think about the role that creativity has in society.

'The fact that in 1963 they were asking those big existential questions, 'Why are we here?', 'What are we going to do about systemic exclusion? or institutional racism?' They didn't agree on the answers to these questions; they didn't all agree that Black art was a thing – the same thing is true with artists now, and why shouldn't it be?

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'In terms of thinking about a series of questions that feel really relevant and that resonate with people, but not trying to prescribe one answer to it – that's why it's relevant now.'

To celebrate, the Tate has commissioned a series of films to coincide with the powerful exhibition. The first in the series features Zawe Ashton (of Fresh Meat and Not Safe for Work fame), who heads to New York to interview Lorraine O' Grady, an active voice in the feminist art movement of 1970s New York and whose work is featured in Soul of a Nation.

83-year-old O'Grady is a New York-based artist and critic, who works in conceptual and performance art that integrates photo and video installation. Together they discuss race, gender and the artist's exploration of black female subjectivity.

Check out the nine-minute video below.

And then check out the exhibition, which is running until October 2017.

Soul of a Nation runs at Tate Modern from 12 July – 22 October 2017

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