Phoebe Collings-James Wants To Change The Face Of The Art World

Posted in Articles, Arts, Interviews, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-03-20 00:05Z by Steven

Phoebe Collings-James Wants To Change The Face Of The Art World


Sydney Gore, Assistant Digital Editor

with more color in the picture

In celebration of Black History Month, NYLON is running a spotlight series called Black Girl Power… The Future Is Bright. Every day, phenomenal black women from different industries will be featured to tell their stories—revealing how they became who they are, showing what they have accomplished, and pinpointing how they navigated their careers. Black women deserve to be celebrated 365 days of the year, and we hope that this series will inspire everyone to believe in the power of #blackgirlmagic.

Phoebe Collings-James is an artist from London currently based in New York. Breaking out into the art world can be challenging enough as a woman, but the 28-year-old has been exposed to even more realities as the product of an English and Jamaican family. Collings-James’ latest work at the CONDO exhibition consisted of a series of watercolour paintings of animals titled Just Enough Violence. (Her previous series was called Choke On Your Tongue.)

“My work relies on a hypersensitivity to the situations and people surrounding me. Perhaps that broadly describes many artists, but it is true. I think it’s about bearing witness,” she told us in an email. “That gets scrambled with my research and desires to make physical things, to use my hands to turn materials from one form to another. I love art. I feel like I always forget to say that and it’s the most obvious answer really. I got into it because I love it. I find it inspiring because it can open up your imagination, which is something that is essential if we are to live and not merely survive.”

Collings-James started modeling as a teenager and then got back into it a few years ago as a means to support her artistic practice. Her approach toward fashion and art has always been one of great ambivalence. “I think clothes are vitally important, even more so to people who are overlooked or marginalised in society,” she added. “For many it is one of the few ways of expressing your creativity. To show the world who you are, what you are into, and what you believe in.”

This reasoning is why Collings-James thinks that cultural appropriation has become a more divisive subject today. “Whether it’s designers appropriating ‘work wear’ or Kylie Jenner wearing her hair in cornrows, our style is something very precious,” she explained.

Get more familiar with Collings-James and her work in the interview, below!…

How did you grow into your black identity? (Or, if you’re multiracial, how did you grow into your identity as such?)

I feel like I’m only just figuring that out to be honest. When I see younger women like Amandla Stenberg speak so eloquently and vehemently about their identities I’m so happy that they exist now. As I feel like I was looking for that kind of inspiration as a kid and didn’t find it until much later. A lot of my relationships with my identity have been through the lens of relationships with men who, both black and white, have projected their own complicated relationships with race onto my body and mind. It’s only in the last year I have started to feel more whole. As black people, we often are seen as just skin. Light skin, dark skin, golden skin—ooh that beautiful blue-black skin. We don’t get to be whole. We don’t get to be nuanced or chameleon-like.

I have been reading Grace Jones’ autobiography and she is giving me life each day. Coming from Jamaica like my father’s family, she describes her relationship with a world that would rather she stayed small, or fitted neatly in a box, and she continues at age 66 to smash all conventions. I especially like the way she describes each of the glossy photos that line the gutter of the book. “At the edge of the Caribbean Sea.” “A one-man show. A red curtain, an accordion, a minimal staircase, one leg up. Voila – theatre!” “Acting natural in a 1970’s disco setting.” “Using a New York rooftop as a stage, totally believing in myself.” When people say gender and race are constructs, Grace knows that innately. She lives that performance of identities. She is my hero/ine!…

Read the entire interview here.

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A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica

Posted in Books, Caribbean/Latin America, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, Slavery, United Kingdom on 2018-03-18 03:44Z by Steven

A Dark Inheritance: Blood, Race, and Sex in Colonial Jamaica

Yale University Press
352 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4
25 b/w illus.
Hardcover ISBN: 9780300225556

Brooke N. Newman, Associate Professor of History; Associate Director of the Humanities Research Center
Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

Focusing on Jamaica, Britain’s most valuable colony in the Americas by the mid-eighteenth century, Brooke Newman explores the relationship between racial classifications and the inherited rights and privileges associated with British subject status. Weaving together a diverse range of sources, she shows how colonial racial ideologies rooted in fictions of blood ancestry at once justified permanent, hereditary slavery for Africans and barred members of certain marginalized groups from laying claim to British liberties on the basis of hereditary status.

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Dealing with Everyday Racism as a Black Mom with a White-Passing Son

Posted in Articles, Family/Parenting, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-03-18 01:28Z by Steven

Dealing with Everyday Racism as a Black Mom with a White-Passing Son


Ndéla Faye
London, United Kingdom

Illustration by Erin Aniker

Do they live far?” the woman asks me in the swimming pool changing rooms, nodding her head towards my son. “We live across the river, not far from here,” I reply, not quite understanding the wording of her question. On my way home I realize that her choice of pronoun referred to my son’s family—which she assumed I was not a part of. She did not think my child was mine. I bite my lip and wipe the tears from my eyes.

When white professor Robert E. Kelly’s children interrupted his live interview on the BBC last year, many thought his Korean wife, visible in the background, was the nanny. The incident sparked a much-needed debate on stereotypes and racism, but the truth is this is part and parcel of many non-white mum’s life. Having lived in London for more than a decade, where less than half the population identify as white and British, I have – perhaps naively – been lulled into the idea that people don’t judge me based on the color of my skin. But since the birth of my child, I’ve been proven wrong time and time again.

I notice a shop security guard staring at my son, examining his features and trying to answer the big red question mark blinking in his head. “Are you looking after him for someone?” he blurts out. This time I’m unable to hide my anger. “No, I pushed him out myself,” I reply curtly. I make a swift exit, accompanied by the awkward laughs and raised eyebrows of those who witnessed this unfortunate exchange. Swatting away microaggressions with an invisible bat has become part of my everyday survival.

Part of motherhood is being thrown into a whole new world, but as the mother of a “white-passing” child, I’ve been thrown head first into a place where a playgroup leader asks if I am my child’s guardian—but immediately refers to my white friend and her white baby as “mom and baby.” A place where an Irish woman corrects me on the pronunciation of my own child’s Irish name. A place where I see people flinch with surprise as I nurse my son in public, and I wonder whether they think I’m a hired wet nurse, and keep smiling even though I feel like crying…

Read the entire article here.

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It’s quite racist to call your mixed race friends black if they don’t identify as such

Posted in Articles, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-03-17 23:37Z by Steven

It’s quite racist to call your mixed race friends black if they don’t identify as such

Thursday, 2017-10-05

Miranda Larbi

(Picture: Ella Byworth for

‘My cousin will be so shocked when I tell him I’m dating a black girl!’ my ex said shortly after we started dating.

There I was, wondering whether I’d accidentally taken up with a polyamorous hippy when I realised to my surprise, that he was actually talking about me.

Me – the most beige of people. The person with skin the colour of korma. As close to a Simpson as you could get.

I mean…I am a bit black but that’s not immediately obvious. It was a confusing moment.

Being ascribed an identity that doesn’t belong to you is an odd experience. It makes you doubt how you act and whether you see yourself vastly differently to the way others see you.

And it’s especially tricky when it comes to race…

Read the entire article here.

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These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Social Science, United Kingdom on 2018-03-13 14:32Z by Steven

These Twins, One Black and One White, Will Make You Rethink Race

National Geographic
The Race Issue
April 2018

Marcia (left) and Millie Biggs, both 11, say people are shocked to learn that they’re fraternal twins. Marcia looks more like their mother, who’s English born, and Millie looks more like their father, who’s of Jamaican descent.

Patricia Edmonds

Marcia and Millie Biggs say they’ve never been subjected to racism—just curiosity and surprise that twins could have such different skin colors.

When Amanda Wanklin and Michael Biggs fell in love, they “didn’t give a toss” about the challenges they might face as a biracial couple, Amanda says. “What was more important was what we wanted together.”

They settled down in Birmingham, England, eager to start a family. On July 3, 2006, Amanda gave birth to fraternal twin girls, and the ecstatic parents gave their daughters intertwined names: One would be Millie Marcia Madge Biggs, the other Marcia Millie Madge Biggs.

From a young age the girls had similar features but very different color schemes. Marcia had light brown hair and fair skin like her English-born mother. Millie had black hair and brown skin like her father, who’s of Jamaican descent. “We never worried about it; we just accepted it,” Michael says…

…odern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

And yet 50 years after the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., racial identity has reemerged as a fundamental dividing line in our world…

Read the entire article here.

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Broken identity

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, United Kingdom on 2018-02-26 23:01Z by Steven

Broken identity

The Times Literary Supplement

Bernardine Evaristo

Afua Hirsch ©Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Afua Hirsch, Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging (London: Jonathan Cape, 2018)

People of colour raised in the openly racist Britain of the 1960s and 70s often put an identity quest at the heart of their fiction, poetry, drama and non-fiction. Joan Riley’s novel about an alienated girl, The Unbelonging (1985), and Caryl Phillips’s pan-European travelogue, The European Tribe (1988), provide powerful early examples. Hanif Kureishi’s first novel, The Buddha of Suburbia (1990), opens with the mixed-race protagonist declaring, “My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost”. In her play Talking in Tongues (1991), Winsome Pinnock wrote about an Afro-Caribbean woman who sought to reassemble her fragmented identity back in her parents’ Jamaica. In my own verse novel, Lara (1997), the mixed-race protagonist journeys to her father’s Nigeria to see if she can belong there. Back then, writing in this genre spoke of the dilemma of not feeling accepted in Britain; to the children of immigrants, the seemingly harmless question, “Where do you really come from?”, was seen as a challenge to their British birthright. Jackie Kay’s memorable poem “In My Country” encapsulates one response: “Where do you come from? / Here, I said, Here, these parts” (Other Lovers, 1993).

It is a question I haven’t been asked in decades; I hoped it had died out along with the idea that Black and British was an oxymoron. Afua Hirsch’s Brit(ish), however, finds it still tripping out of people’s mouths, as the most “persistent reminder of that sense of not belonging”. The book digs deep into the reasons for this enduring question, skilfully blending memoir, history and social commentary around race, culture and identity. Hirsch writes with an incisive honesty that disproves the idea that privilege can be easily reduced to racial binaries. She fully acknowledges the exclusive pedigree of her own background as a lighter-skinned woman of mixed parentage in a colourist society, who enjoyed a comfortable middle-class suburban childhood with her Ghanaian-born mother and English Jewish father. Her education was private all the way to Oxford University, and led to a first career as a barrister. Ten years ago she became a journalist. Hirsch is ostensibly the successful embodiment of Britain’s multicultural project, but her privileged status has not immunized her from the perniciousness of racism…

Read the entire book review here.

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“Making the Beast with two Backs” – Interracial Relationships in Early Modern England

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-15 19:51Z by Steven

“Making the Beast with two Backs” – Interracial Relationships in Early Modern England

Literature Compass
Volume 12, Issue 1, January 2015
Pages 22–37
DOI: 10.1111/lic3.12200

Miranda Kaufmann, Senior Research Fellow
Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study
University of London

Shakespeare’s tragedy of Othello and Desdemona has long attracted critics to consider the issues of interracial relationships and miscegenation in early modern England. More recently, other black characters have been found in Renaissance literature and an African presence in 16th and 17th century England has been demonstrated from archival sources. This article gives an overview of these developments and their implications for the study of interracial relationships in early modern literature. Evidence from the archives is brought to bear on different aspects of relationships both between black men and white women and between black women and white men. This new information about interracial marriages, as well as sexual intercourse or “fornication”, prostitution and the resulting mixed race children must be incorporated into the discussion of interracial relationships in Renaissance literature.

Read or purchase the article here.

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Kaufmann’s ‘Black Tudors’ to be ‘epic’ TV drama

Posted in Articles, Arts, History, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-15 18:48Z by Steven

Kaufmann’s ‘Black Tudors’ to be ‘epic’ TV drama

The Bookseller: At the Heart of Publishing since 1858

Benedicte Page

The production company behind the ITV series “Vera” and BBC1’s “Shetland” has acquired exclusive television rights to Black Tudors: The Untold Story by Miranda Kaufmann (Oneworld).

Kate Bartlett’s drama label, formerly known as ITV Studios, London Drama, and now rebranded as Silverprint Pictures, bought rights from Emily Hayward Whitlock at The Artists Partnership and Charlie Viney at The Viney Shaw Agency. Silverprint plans to develop stories from the book into “an epic and ambitious returning drama series.”…

Read the entire article here.

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“Race, It Would Appear, Complicates Things”: An Irish Immigration Story

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Autobiography, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-12 22:14Z by Steven

“Race, It Would Appear, Complicates Things”: An Irish Immigration Story

Travel Journal

Emma Dabiri

Emma Dabiri is Irish, but when the inevitable “Where do you come from?” is asked, the answer rarely satisfies the inquisitor. Photo by @thediasporadiva.

In this series, we’re highlighting the stories of people who remain connected to their home countries—either those with immigrant parents or those who are immigrants themselves. With “We Are All Immigrants: Stories About the Places We’re From,” you’ll hear from those most acutely affected by changing policies and a shifting reality, those who exist as part of multiple cultures at once. Here, London-based professor and writer Emma Dabiri explores what being an immigrant means to her and to her family.

And although my parents were born and raised in countries not their own, I’m not sure that the term immigrant applies to them in the way it does to me.

I was born in Dublin and have lived in London for almost 20 years—since I finished school—which quite straightforwardly makes me an Irish immigrant. Ostensibly I am Irish, but when the inevitable “Where do you come from?” is asked, that answer, rarely, if ever, satisfies people. Race, it would appear, complicates things…

Read the entire article here.

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Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United Kingdom on 2018-02-11 20:15Z by Steven

Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’

The Guardian

Kit de Waal

‘A writing career never entered my head.’ … Kit de Waal. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

When Kit de Waal was growing up in 1970s Birmingham, no one like her – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. Forty years on, the author asks, what has changed?

Reading at school was agony. A slow, child by child rotation around the class, six pages each. Great Expectations. Vanity Fair. The Mill on the bloody Floss. The boys with their flatline monotones. The girls, careful not to stumble and be humiliated. English was my best subject, so this process was painful. I wanted to race ahead and get to the end of the story. Yet the idea of taking that book home to read later and finish, that never occurred to me. Not when we owned the ultimate big novel: the Bible. We were Jehovah’s Witnesses and three times a week we’d sit in a draughty hall on the backstreets of Sparkbrook in Birmingham, wrapped around a paraffin heater discussing the 66 books that made up the Old and the New Testaments. I’ve read it cover to cover at least five times.

Leviticus and Numbers were hard going, all that counting and recounting, all those laws and exhortations, but there were very beautiful passages, too. The Song of Solomon, Psalms, Proverbs. The Gospels, too, four different takes on one big adventure. They had the ingredients of a good thriller with a hero, a call to arms, a savage tragedy. Without realising it, I was learning what you had to do to write well, how to characterise, how to keep your reader turning the page without the threat of eternal damnation as an incentive.

But writing as a career? That never entered my head. The only writers I knew were dead. And apart from Enid Blyton, they were dead men. And white. And posh. Even when I began to read widely in my 20s, it was still a case of: if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. No one from my background – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. It just wasn’t an option…

Read the entire article here.

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