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I’ve been to visit ‘Black Britain’ by Jhanee Wilkins

‘Black Britain’ was originally—in much rougher form—a blog created by Jhanee Wilkins, a photographer from the West Midland. It’s now an exhibition at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art.

The exhibition has a simple, repeating structure. Each series begins with an A4 page of text in which a black person introduces themselves and their experience of racism while growing up and living in Britain. This is followed by a photograph of them looking directly at the camera, one of them looking elsewhere, and a third of an object from their lives.

There is something deeply affecting about staring directly into the eyes of a person immediately after reading about their experience of racism. I was moved by the experience of Kae, born in Wolverhampton, who says,

I do not feel represented in this country, I do not feel welcome even after 42 years.

I can only begin to imagine, and certainly can’t fully appreciate, how fundamentally destabilising it must be to feel unwelcome in the country where you were born and have lived your whole life.

I was struck in a complete different way by Anne Marie’s story:

I think mainly, in the workplace that’s where I find that it is awkward for me to completely be myself. If I would like to bring my own food into work to heat up in the staff room, there’s a whole load of questions about what I’m heating up or the smell of it.

This reminded me of how privileged I am to not have to live with self-consciousness about this sort of thing, and to be able to go through life barely giving it a second thought.

‘Black Britain’ continues at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art until 16 April.

This post was filed under: Art, Post-a-day 2023, Travel, , , .

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