Wanja reflects on the need to see bodies like hers better reflected on the walls that tell the victor’s side of the story. The museum bears witness to what has come before and prepared for future generations to build upon. Within these recollections, she confronts and disrupts. She is aware that there are accounts that are yet to be uncovered and spoken out. To remain silent is to accept the victor as the only present body, to ignore the bodies that could not speak or were silenced. To be silent is to hide.
Findings and recommendations
What I heard
- When blackness is explored in museums/heritage spaces, it is marketed as niche or for a particular time e.g Black History Month, which does not allow these stories to be explored in the mainstream program and therefore get wider visibility.
- There is an emphasis on traumatic histories, when there are also stories of joy that should be told.
- A misconception that BIPOC* are not interested in history. Many are, but are not necessarily interested in single-narrative depictions they see in museums.
- BIPOC not always encouraged to engage with art in school and this lack of art education means less of them feel comfortable engaging in ‘cultural’ activities that are advertised as high culture e.g art.
- Events that are produced and feature BIPOC are likely to attract that audience.
- An emphasis should be placed on production by BIPOC so that the exhibitions/shows etc reflect the right sensitivity.
- City can do more to promote other cultures beyond food. We can share what makes us different in other celebratory ways.
- Gatekeepers of culture should learn to pass the baton, especially to a younger generation who can speak to and are more open to listen to younger and marginalised people.
- Cultural activities that are explicitly catered to BIPOC tend to emphasise problematic background e.g low income, which does not reflect all backgrounds.
- Young people want more autonomy to create their own events rather than have events produced by people who don’t want understand their needs.
*BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Colour).
- There is a need for an intersectional approach that allows stories from multiple perspectives and considers that people’s characteristics are intertwined, e.g Muslim, black, queer and middle class.
- Providing more opportunities for younger audiences to devise their own programming.
- Need for greater accessibility and engagement beyond the usual food events that happen around Black History Month.
- A need to uncover histories that are holistic i.e not only portraying trauma, but also joy and love.
- There needs to be space for listening/active dialogue with the artists. The artist is a whole person and their health and wellbeing informs the process of production and outcome.
With thanks to Abel, Alice, Amrita, Anna, Eden, Erica, Moses, Njeri, Njoki, Paul, Sean, Simon, Tina, TJ, Tori.