Artist Profile: Paul Maheke

1 November 2020

Paul Maheke’s Tropicalité, l'Île et l'Exote, 2014 will be the next film to feature in the current National Partners Programme exhibition Selected Films From the Arts Council Collection at Newlyn Art Gallery, Penzance.

Through the gallery’s ongoing partnership with the Intercom Trust, young LGBTQIA+ people have selected a series of artists’ films from the Arts Council Collection that give voice to individuals and communities whose views are often overlooked.

Paul Maheke has a varied and often collaborative approach to his artistic practice. He has recently worked with performance and video to create works that disrupt representations of queer Blackness, which have grown out of Western discourses. His current research imagines the body as an archive: a territory with its own cartography, using it physically as a pathway to information and knowledge in order to address how memory and identity are formed and constituted. 

Maheke explains “these works are often bathed in colourful lights and set in motion by pulsating soundtracks. They embrace a multiplicity of logics and voices...I regularly collaborate with music makers, producers, choreographers, performers and dancers. I intend for the environments I craft to be experienced as poetic yet political spaces where the body is purposed as a site for resilience”.

Tropicalité, l'Île et l'Exote, 2014 is a silent French/English subtitled video, which considers the notion of islands and bodies as colonised spaces and territories as well as possible sites of resistance. Featuring sweeping seascapes and glorious marine life, the footage was shot on the artificial island of Vassivière in France, and the tropical French overseas region of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. The view later switches to the artist performing a spirited, seemingly improvised dance inside what appears to be an empty swimming pool. The piece describes the empowerment and decolonisation of one's body, as well as exploring concepts such as otherness, exoticism and subjectivity.

Following Evan Ifekoya’s The Gender Song, Paul Maheke’s film will be available to watch on their website as part of the National Partners Programme Exhibition Selected Films From the Arts Council Collection




The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.