Artist Statement

‘Where do you come from?’ ‘Why is my culture important?’ ‘Do I have a responsibility to maintain ethnic practices and inherited customs and if so why? These questions are very much personally derived and reflective of ones I tend to ask myself. Through a combination of various mediums primarily film, photography, sculpture, text, sound and installation, my practice addresses topics such as race, migration and cross-cultural diversity in Britain.
My approach is inspired by historical and sociological facts alongside conversations, observations and experiences that I have had whilst living and growing up in South East London.  I am especially interested in how black people, who have immigrated to the UK, have been affected by westernisation. My work also considers both historic and modern interrelationships between Afro-Caribbean heritage and western society. I intend to critically analyse issues that arise such as cultural identification, ethnic division and discrimination.
The maintenance of traditions and ritualism is something that is of particular interest to me, as highlighted in my series of investigations titled yam studies. Here I have taken yam, a vegetable native to Afro-Caribbean culture and experimented with appropriating its status through various channels. The majority of the work is film based, adopting a documentary and essay style genre that also involves sculptural and poetic elements.
I am intent on presenting the yam in a metaphorical way, one that stands as a symbol of on-going tradition. In the piece ‘u feel like yam,’ I have drawn a comparison between the Windrush Generation[1] (The thousands of West Indian Migrants that came to Britain after the war to help with labour shortages in the 1950s) and yam; both taken out of their normative context, originally seen as foreign but are necessary fragments of Black British culture. The yam now becomes personified and metaphorical and is seen as more than a vegetable; it has a greater identity.
The use of the yam can also been seen as a kind of ‘ethnic insiderism,’[2] a type of inside joke where this staple food has been appropriated and institutionalised to fit a modernistic aesthetic. Yet, the yam remains recognisable to members of a specific cultural group, but is experienced in a different way from its original form, to a point that it is almost humorous (this is evident in the piece Walk aside the Appropriation). Whilst those unfamiliar with this understanding, remain estranged from this knowledge and are left with a view that is perhaps more figurative. Humour is a vital aspect of my work and follows a definition similar to how Simon Critchley describes ethnic humour in his writings. He claims that one’s reference to complex notions in art works is a reflection of suppressed anger regarding the topic and surfaces in the form of a joke.[3]
My work is concerned with the way that language is used to address aspects of other cultures exposing the use of offensive politeness- the habit of not wanting to offend but in turn come out as ‘natural sugar coated slurs’. The use of slang is also present in many of my works, especially in the titles; this is evident in the pieces ‘u feel like yam’ and ‘Free yam 4 sale!’ This aims to create more of an informal engagement with the viewer, one that is perhaps more personal and direct.
I take inspiration from artists such as Black Audio Collective[4], especially their piece Handsworth Songs (1985), as well as Ruth Novaczek’s[5], Rootless Cosmopolitans (1990). Both use documentary style connotations to explore complex narratives, which is similar to what I intend to portray throughout my practice. Additionally the powerful notions present in Ingrid Pollard, Yinka Shonibare and Chris Ofili’s work, effectively analyse cultural identification and have helped inform my method of theorising.

 

[1] The Windrush Generation, BBC Caribbean, June 2008,
http://www.bbc.co.uk/caribbean/news/story/2008/06/080620_windrush2.shtml, 21.04.2016
[2] Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993, pp.119
[3] Simon Critchley, On Humor, Routledge, London and New York, 2002
[4] Black Audio Film Collective, Tate.org.uk, (2016), available at http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/b/black-audio-film-collective, 21. 04. 2016
[5] Ruth Novaczek, Luxonline,
http://www.luxonline.org.uk/artists/ruth_novaczek, 18.04.2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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