I am an art historian, curator and creative educator deeply concerned with Black representation and the future of Black aesthetics. Here I use the term Black politically, recognizing our unique human relationships to land, ancestral origins and diverse communities, but seeking to encapsulate the shared identification, racialisation and cultural expressions of people of African descent around the world.
Over the last few years I have researched and taught about the visual politics and memories of slavery and colonialism. My PhD at the University of Cambridge identified and analysed the representation of African characters in British satirical prints across the 18th century, who symbolically expressed the changing socio-economic dynamics connecting distant colonies to the metropole. As a print scholar I have been specifically interested in the way printed visual forms in the West (from early engravings to mainstream brand design) have shaped, reproduced and sustained stereotypes about Black people in public and private spaces. One of the critical questions driving my work is: How have the biases expressed within varying modes of cultural production, impacted social relations both past and present?
Before I arrived at K3, I was a Marie Curie postdoctoral fellow for EUROTAST, an EU research and training network coordinated from the Centre for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen. Our remit was to use new developments in bio-archaeology and genetics to transform research on the history of the transatlantic slave trade, nuance the discourse on its contemporary legacies, and incorporate scientific language and perspectives into public understandings of slavery.
Through a research driven curatorial practice, I have sought to showcase creative dialogues around representation, which move between past and present, material and ephemeral, imagination and experience. In 2007, I curated “A Visible Difference: Skin, Race and Identity 1720 – 1820” at the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons in London. This exhibition explored the little known portraits and stories of enslaved African people from New World colonies, with skin pigmentation diseases such as Vitiligo and Albinism that effectively turned their bodies white. A collection of artefacts including paintings, prints, manuscripts, playbills and coins, demonstrated the ways in which their presence challenged intellectual and popular notions of race and human variety during the enlightenment period. At the same time the exhibition was used as the starting point for creative workshops in schools around broader themes of identity, disease, inheritance, performance and belonging. Most recently, in June 2014, I curated "POSSESSION: Art, Power & Black Womanhood" at the New Shelter Plan gallery in Copenhagen. This exhibition presented the work of 12 contemporary Black women artists negotiating colonial memory through mixed media performances of self-definition and expression.
I am currently the Postdoc for the Living Archives Research Project at K3, and will be working collaboratively, across disciplines, to curate affective archival encounters with Black presence and colonial histories in public space.
Profile photo: Detail from Sasha Huber, "Queen by Nature - Temi" (2014). Digital Photograph. Courtesy of the artist.