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#BlossomsOfTheMoment: 5 creatives who are setting trends and breaking down barriers

MOBO and Black Blossoms have teamed up to bring you 5 #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. 

PEJU OSHIN

Peju has worked with Museums, Galleries, and organisations including Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery, V & A, The National Gallery and  London Transport Museum. She is constantly speaking about the importance of having diverse audiences attend museums.

SOPHIA TASSEW

At just 20-years-old, junior Art Director Sophia Tassew has already organised a number of successful art exhibitions and helped to art direct a number of campaigns for brands such as Nivea, Havanas, Holland & Barrett and more.

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

Don't compare yourself and your journey to others, as it definitely does more harm than good. Surely, it's okay to look for inspiration and ideas from fellow creatives but always remember your entire being is what will make you stand out. Definitely stay consistent, have your ethos and stay true to what you believe in. Never forget, people will easily remember you and pinpoint you from others when you stay true to yourself.

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

Identity is made up of so many different factors which could slow down the creative process or block you from doing certain things. Sometimes, I feel like people won't take me as serious because I'm a girl and I haven't actually studied or taken any courses for anything. However, I do have a very firm handshake and I know what I'm talking about, so that's helped quite a few times.

What drives your creativity?

It's what wakes me up in the morning. I think it's the fact that I have tons of ideas and stuff I'd like to execute. I'm much more aware of time, so I'm much more motivated. I know how precious time is and how harmful wasting it could be. Another thing that drives my creativity is knowing that not enough of it is being encouraged by the education system. I'd like to think that my generation would make such a strong impact that a few years down the line the arts would be respected in the same regard as other academic subjects. I want kids in schools to look us up, see faces that look like theirs and say "I want to do what she does when I'm older." I didn't have that in school but I know we can change that.

What significant differences would you like to see in the creative industries?

The hiring process. I'd like to see more black creative teams in agencies, black editors-in-chiefs, black creative directors and more representation across all creative positions, whether that be with race, sexuality, gender or religion. It's weird that I didn't really have someone to look up to creatively when I was younger. I'm 20 now and I'm only just hearing about names such as Edward Enninful, Ava Duvernay and Jordan Peele.

Imriel Morgan & Satia Sa Dias

The voices and brains behind Melanin Millennials podcast. They have discussed everything from self-care, Brexit to feminism. Earlier this year, the pair interviewed Jamilia and featured in the FT & Fader. 

What was the initial eureka moment that led to the conception of Melanin Millennials?

I: It was listening to how candid and uncensored our African American Pod brothers and sisters were. They were just so honest and lived in that truth that I was like “I want to be that free.” I was also feeling really affected by US race relations and thought it was time to look at my own situation here in the UK.

What advice can you share about maintaining a friendship but also a professional working relationship?

I: It’s not easy. I’d say choose a creative partner wisely and set some rules and boundaries early to avoid conflict. I honestly couldn’t have picked a better co-host and I wouldn’t choose anyone else.

S: Try to put in roughly the same amount of effort so resentment doesn’t build. Recognise each other’s strengths and weaknesses and adapt to that.

As a millennial of colour, what significant differences would you like to see in the creative industries?

I:  I would say getting paid for our work is still tough. There have been major institutions that want us to essentially do their jobs for them for free. I’d like to see the exploitation and (sometimes) plagiarism stop.

S: I never considered myself to be in the creative industry up until recently. Coming into it I had zero expectations but I guess being able to make a decent living would be nice. I think our listeners, supporters, and consumers need to be made aware of the time, cost and energy that goes into being a creative. The investment can be huge on an individual. Therefore, being a creative of colour is an even bigger gamble than it is for our white counterparts. So I’d like to see more recognition by established brands and creatives so that we can work together to be able to wield more power and have more of their needs met.

Travis Alabanza

Is a black, queer non-binary poet and performer and their pronouns are they or them.  They consistently challenge the notion of gender binary, LGBTQ issues, and racism through their performance. Check out their grime piece performed at the TATE.

What inspired you to start performing? 

I grew up on a council estate in Bristol, outside of the city centre. I wasn’t naturally surrounded by live arts, performance, and theatre. However, my mother is really loud, expressive and bold in her Blackness. This gave me an example of an authentic performance of survival. I think I knew how to perform in gender, race, and class-based ways before I ever took to the stage. But now, I just put it on a stage!

How central is your identity and your experiences to the work that you create?

My identity will always be central to my work because my identity/ies are central to my life. My newest show ‘BURGERZ’ looks at transphobic abuse in public. At a later stage, I would like to look at more hidden parts of myself. For now, I think there is a need to speak about my identity. There is a lack of visibility and presence around Black trans-femme people in the UK and, if I have to make art to be seen, heard and visible, then that is what I will do.

What steps do you take to empower others with a similar background to you to challenge the status quo in your field?    

I run workshops with youth, particularly young people of colour, once a week in galleries. At the beginning of the workshop, I always tell them “I am young, I didn’t go to art school, and I lived on a council estate.” I tell them this so they can see that not everyone in the art world comes from a privileged background. Also, challenging the status quo means trying to challenge capitalism, which means sharing space and not competing with fellow Black folk. Sometimes that may just equal shouting out your fellow artists that you love and that inspire you! For me, right now I’m really loving the work of Karnage Kills, Rebekah Ubuntu, Jacob V Joyce, Joy Miessi and Daniel Braithwaite-Shirley. 

YinkaSays

YinkaSays is a 25-year-old East London artist whose style of work mixes bold abstract markings with a juxtaposed element of realism captured through detailed focal points.

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

Love what you're doing, understand and respect it's worth, as there will be times where you may be questioned by either yourself or others. But keep pushing through, as amazing things come out the other end of those tricky times.

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

The biggest difficulty I'd say is probably setting prices. A lot of people will only see the end result of a painting and not consider the time and energy that may have gone into its making. Without being identified as a household-named artist or having a large social media following, people may think you'll be down to do any and everything but that isn’t the case. For me, I've always found it easy to say “No” [Laughs].

What drives your creativity?

My mood swings mainly. Creativity is sparked by emotions connected to something you see, feel, or hear.  Regardless of whether that feeling is good or bad. It's a release that keeps me balanced.

What significant differences would you like to see in the creative industries?

Less boundaries and restrictions for young people. A lot of young people come out of education lost, as they can't get a job in their creative field and end up in a job that doesn't fuel their fire just to get by. But that fire will eventually burn out and it should never get to that point.

Author: 

Adenike Gboyega/Black Blossoms Team (@blackblossomss)