Karen McLean
Ar’n’t I a woman!

Birmingham-based artist Karen McLean grew up in Trinidad. Her artistic practice continues to be informed by the history, culture and folklore of the Caribbean and its inter-connections with the UK.


Her brand new installation features a huge wall hanging which acknowledges and celebrates the strength and resilience of female slaves within the boundaries of captivity. Characters from Caribbean history and folklore are referenced, including Nanny and Anansi the trickster who often takes the form of a spider. Both are regarded as symbols of slave resistance and survival. The work is made from hessian sacks which allude both to the human body and to shipping and commercial exchange. Karen has applied a range of processes including shaping, sewing, screenprinting, branding, dyeing them with tea and coffee and embellishing them with cowrie shells. A further series of small sacks spelling out the title of the exhibition have been embroidered by Walsall Black Sisters, working with the artist. The title references Deborah Gray White’s book which explores the lives of female slaves.


Drawing parallels with issues facing women today, Karen celebrates the ingenuity and vitality of the human spirit in the face of adversity and acknowledges the continued resistance of women for control of their bodies.



Artist Interview

Karen McLean talks about her research and the influences upon her new body of work. Accompanied by photos and film footage of the artist creating the pieces that will be shown as part of solo exhibition Ar’n’t I a Woman!


This film is being released on Thursday 30th April, the date that we had planned to open the exhibition to the public at The New Art Gallery Walsall. Due to the Gallery’s temporary closure amid Covid-19, we have had to postpone the installation of this show. We look forward to hanging the exhibition with Karen and also sharing it with our visitors once it is deemed safe to do so. In the meanwhile, enjoy this very special insight from the artist.




Preview (postponed)

Thursday 30 April, 6-8pm




In Conversation

Date (to be decided)

Join Karen McLean in conversation with Head of Exhibitions, Deborah Robinson

Free, all welcome



Join Emily Zobel Marshall who will share her research on the character of Anansi

Cost, booking details


Preview: postponed