Testimonies from students at Art school who have experiences of feeling marginalised

“Maintaining Colour”, a group exhibition of the work of people of colour caused a problem in that people felt it was about the exclusion of whiteness. Where we wanted it to be a celebration, the lack of diversity was questioned. It wasn’t meant to be negative and it was implied that we were being racist.

Predominantly white, hetero tutors don’t ‘get’ me at all.

We tried to group together with CSM students; to be in a room with all brown people was overwhelming.

My dissertation was on Black Art in the 1980s / 90s. I still feel uncomfortable in the space of the institution.

I feel a heavy weight in the studio, for fear of things being misinterpreted.

The heaviness of the institution.

I hardly go in to the studio; it feels claustrophobic.

Fitting things in to a certain format, on an open course which in turn feels restrictive.

Not feeling a sense of community.

Tutors who didn’t want me to make work about my identity.

Uncomfortable with the university / institution.

Art’s whiteness; white walls, glaring students.

I want more friends; being in a room of brown people, sharing shared ideas.

The label of being a black artist. My work looks ‘very tribal’.

We got pressured to do this. You’re not looking at serious artists – Kerry James Marshall!
I refuse to be called a Black Artist, because I’m an artist and I’m black.

Assumptions about the way I work.

Pat Parker poem; important to acknowledge me as a black person – but not only as a black person.

I tried to change my identity, refused to talk about race. If I can let my anger out now …

To question authenticity; chicken Tikka Masala … (‘shit’ masala). Felafel & Hummus; doesn’t acknowledge the roots.

When I make culturally specific work, people (tutors) go silent. Extreme ethnocentric (Western) rhetoric. Neo-colonialism; ‘the authentic subject’ is such a colonial term – between the coloniser and the colonised.

People are scared of offending; a lack of knowledge and information. Conceptual art teaching is not based on plurality.

Exhaustion with explaining my work and its context i.e. talking about Iran…then a  tutor speaks about terrorism for 45 minutes.

The knowledge of tutors has stopped at colonialism or white guilt and is not updated through reading.

Fake woke situation.

Want to have equal stakes conversations.

How are experiences like mine played out in different locations.

Finding other people and other voices talking about race.

It’s hard to find a place where these conversations are given priority.
I’m displaced; from my home culture and university culture.

Representation being discussed at a level that is of value and that isn’t tokenised or marginalised to a ‘type’ of work.

Understanding how it is to be defined by race. The choice to make work about it, or not …

Re-writing histories feels urgent.

Being able to speak without limits (time, focus, interest, attention span …). To speak and relate without threat.

To talk about my work as a person of colour.

Finding commonalities. Making political, activist work and want to identify someone else who would like to work through activism.

There isn’t a strong community for brown people.

To reclaim or recreate the definition of black, brown, queer art.

Enrich and nourish each other, be ourselves, make friends … share reading lists.

To find out what pressure tokenism might be putting on to the possibility of drawing affinities and relationships with other people of colour.