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MOBO blossoms of the moment

#BlossomsOfTheMoment: 4 creatives who are setting trends and breaking down barriers

Welcome to the second edition of our #BlossomsOfTheMoment feature. 

MOBO and Black Blossoms have teamed up to bring you #BlossomsOfTheMoment; a monthly spotlight dedicated to celebrating the work of talented black women and non-binary people working in the creative industries, shaping the future and challenging the lack of diverse representation in the sector. Highlighting the various professions within the creative industries, we hope to enrich and inspire aspiring creatives, effect change, and champion the success of our peers. 

Enam Gbewonyo

Enam Gbewonyo is a multimedia textile artist and an emerging curator. In November 2016, she was one of ten emerging curators to be selected for the International Curators Forum (ICF) ‘Beyond the Frame’ development program. Enam is also the founder of the Black British Female Artist (BBFA) Collective, whose purpose is to provide platforms for emerging female artists of the Diaspora to exhibit and build a presence in the art world.

As the founder of BBFA, why is it important for black British female artists to have a strong presence in the art world?

It’s more about us having a level playing field. Female artists have always struggled to be acknowledged in the arts - as in most industries. However, when it comes to Black British female artists we are, for the most part, invisible. That’s not to say we don’t exist, of course, we do, but there is no real space made available to us to forge our careers. I’m hoping we are now turning a corner. This month alone we’ve had Lubiana Himid selected for the Turner Prize (although why it’s taken so long for her to get this recognition is beyond me!), Phoebe Boswell, Arlene Wandera (BBFA member), as well as the host of WOC’s featured in the Diaspora Pavilion showing at the Venice Biennale. The challenge now is to sustain and nurture this presence and not have it dwindle into obscurity like it has before. This is part of BBFA’s mission. 

How important are programs like the ICF ‘Beyond the Frame’ for BAME art practitioners?

Extremely important, it provides opportunity and access that most of us would struggle to achieve by ourselves. Again it’s about leveling the playing field. Too often the diversity agenda is a passing fad/ interest run by institutions that are merely ticking a box so you see initiatives come and go and have no lasting impact. The ICF program is committed to its cause, a cause that’s been ten years in the making and is steadily affecting positive change. I am so honoured to be a part of this and don’t take the privilege I’ve been afforded lightly. This program and others like it are necessary and mean there’s a fighting chance of us changing the discourse so they no longer will be. They afford us the tools then it’s up to us to take the baton and run with it. So watch this space

What else do you think the art world should be doing to encourage diversity and fairer representation? 

I think this starts in the classroom. Not only do we need to see more people of colour teaching art but there needs to be a fundamental change to the actual curriculum. It would be great if alongside the studies of Picasso and Hockney you had artists like Frank Bowling and Ahmed Morsi in the mix too. It’s important that all children see themselves reflected within the arts, this experience of feeling excluded or that the arts is not for us, the BAME community, is heartbreaking. The truth is that art is at the heart of our communities and cultures and it’s time we take ownership of that.

 

Neequaye Dreph Dsane

While #BlossomsOfTheMoment is usually dedicated to putting a spotlight on female creatives, it was hard for us to ignore the phenomenal work of Neequaye Dreph Dsane. 

 
Through his work and writing, British-born Ghanaian Neequaye Dreph Dsane presents an alternative black British narrative with super-sized portrait paintings that are a tribute to living unsung heroes and heroines in public spaces. He draws inspiration from 80′s British underground comics such as 2000 AD, dramatic lighting of old masters like Caravaggio and the energy and scale of 70’s New York subway graffiti. He works across a range of media including Oil painting, spray paint and printmaking but it is his distinctive realist style, vibrant color palette and attention to detail that is the common thread throughout all of his work. Dreph has been making art in the streets for the past 3 decades and visited Africa, Asia, the UAE, Central and South America and throughout Europe to make work. 
 

What do you think the art world should be doing to encourage diversity and fairer representation?

To be honest, I don’t give this much thought. When we say "Artworld" are we subconsciously referring to a Western art context? If so, I feel that this thinking is redundant, as there are many great things happening outside of this context, at home and globally.  

What difficulties have you come across in your creative field because of your identity?

“It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not” - Jean-Michel Basquiat

What drives your creativity?

I view myself as an ‘Artivist’ and understand that my gift is to be used for a mission greater than myself. I desire to be better than what I have produced or achieved previously, and I fear to look back at my life and to feel that I’ve underachieved.

What advice can you give aspiring creatives trying to find their own way of expression?

My Dad taught me from young that nobody remembers who came second place and I have found this to be true. In the global marketplace, much is homogenized and also now there is much more of a level playing field. With this in mind, it is advisable to think differently, aggressively and globally.

What is your favourite 90’s jam and why?

“Fight the Power” by Public Enemy released in 1990 from the Fear of a Black Planet album. It’s a reminder of what we must all do daily. 

 

Sharmaine Lovegrove

Say hello to your new favorite book Publisher, Sharmaine Lovegrove. Her passion for storytelling has led to her to work as Literary Editor at ELLE UK, own a boutique bookshop in Berlin, and co-found Dialogue Scouting, a company which finds books to turn into films. Most recently it was announced that she will be the Publisher at  ‘Dialogue Books’ an imprint of Little Brown Book Group, where her focus will be on finding stories to publish from those who come from underrepresented backgrounds.  

Congratulations on your new role! Why do you think it is important for publishers to have specific diversity outreach programs?

To me, the issue is clear: There is a moral and cultural imperative for change to happen in a directive way because everyone has a story to tell and everyone should have a chance to be heard. If you don’t notice a difference is missing you are not going to tell those stories.  Starting the imprint is my commitment to addressing the issues from another perspective.  Once I became a senior member of the literary community (after 20 years of hard graft and innovation), I wanted to do something that used my skills, was impactful and fully addressed the issues that we have sleepwalked into. 

  Setting up a book boutique in Berlin is so cool! What was the most challenging and rewarding part of setting up a business in a different country?

The most challenging part of setting up a business in Berlin was how strict everything is and the final number of insurances that I needed. The best part was building a community that didn’t exist and constantly feeding its demands with more stories and innovative projects. 

'The Writing the Future: Black and Asian Writers' report and Publishers in the UK Marketplace' highlighted the lack of BAME professionals in the publishing sector, how do you navigate in an industry where you are constantly the minority in the room?

I have loved stories and reading since I was a young child, and I never imagined the rooms I wanted to be in would look the way they do. I have been working in this industry since I was 16 and I’m constantly surprised that there are so few people of colour in every part of the sector. As I had worked my way up in a rather unconventional way - I didn’t get traditional roles but I knew what I wanted, so I pushed hard to keep going. 

You definitely have made your passion for storytelling into a fruitful career. What advice would you give young millennials who are trying to get paid from their hobbies and passion?
 
I would say, as hard as it might seem when the cash isn’t rolling in, do take the time to get to know the core of the industry you are working in, so that you can better navigate, innovate and work out the niche to add value in a way others are not able to. 
 
What is your favourite 90's Jam?
 
I equally LOVE "Miss Fat Booty" by Mos Def and "Are You That Somebody" by Aaliyah. 
 
 
Siana Bangura
 
 
Siana is an all-around creative, journalist, poet, author and filmmaker! It is really impressive that she has achieved all this by the age of 25. What makes Siana stand out is the fact that she does a majority of her work on a freelance or commissioned basis. We hope her motivation and tenacity rubs off on us. 
 
 
What voices do you focus on in your work and why? 

My entire portfolio of work focuses on the voices of those on the margins of society; from No Fly on the WALL to Haus of Liberated Reading, as well as my film, 1500 And Counting, and my journalism work. I create spaces and platforms for those voices to be heard. Because of my own experiences as a Black British woman with a migrant background, it's especially important for me to focus on the inextricable links between race and gender. The many voices of black women have often cast aside and often forced into silence.

What advice would you give to freelance creatives? 

I would advise freelance creatives to get into the mindset of running a business – you’re a brand. That means that, especially if you are an independent artist, you have to understand and master things like invoicing, budgeting, time management, timely communications, Marketing and PR and so on. Artists are known for the mantra 'I just want to focus on my art'. If that's the case then you need a team to keep your machine running smoothly. I'd also say building a strong and reliable network of other creatives and professionals in your field is vital. 

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?
 
I've released a short poetic film titled Denim, which is based on a poem of the same name. In my debut collection of poetry, 'Elephant' the film is a commentary on the gentrification of South East London and it's very real effects on local people. 
 
In addition to this, I'm working on the follow up to 'Elephant', which is an anthology of writing by Black people across the Diaspora, and I'm currently accepting submissions. To find out more about this project visit: www.hausofliberatedreading.com
 
Favourite 90s tune?
 
I have so many 90s favourites, which include "Poison" by Bell Biv DeVoe and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana. Both take me back to my eclectic teenage years ('Poison' is from 1990 and 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' is from 1991), despite the fact I was born in September 1991 [Laughs]! 
 
 
Catch up on our previous #BlossomsOfTheMoment feature here.

 

Author: 

Black Blossoms Team / Adenike Gboyega