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Celebrating what it means to be black and British, part 4

ART: Dayo Adesina

Where did your interest in art begin?

I wanted to be and do a lot of things growing up but my godfather exposed me to art from young age. He took me to galleries and museums and I remember thinking this is what I want to do one day and that feeling never really left me.

I think when I realised I could use my hands to create things out of nothing that was it for me and that interest just evolved as I grew. 

Do you come from a particularly creative family?

My dad was a journalist but I think because of his experiences of racism in the field being creative wasn’t really encouraged in me and my siblings. We were always being told to face our books. But at the same time I grew up in a Nigerian household in London, so I saw loads of moments of creativity from how the house was decorated, to music, to cooking and how my parents would get dressed up to go to Nigerian parties. 

Who are some of the BME artists you admire?
 Sonia Boyce
Ingrid Pollard
Adama Jalloh
Hardeep Pandhal
Rosa-Jonah Uddoh

What does it mean to be British to you?

I’ve come to accept that I’m British because I was born here. But it has also meant understanding I am here because of Britain’s history of colonialism and that is linked to why my parents sought a better life in the UK?  It is knowing that, that part of your identity is always up for question because the blackness is always seen first.

When did you begin to come to terms with your dual identity as a British and BME woman?

I’ve always felt I’ve existed in the that in between space, but It wasn’t until I started reading that I was able to come to terms with it or have a language to talk about it. The first text I ever read about dual identities was Double Consciousness by W.E.B Du Bois. He spoke about his experience of being a black American and how we first see ourselves not for ourselves but through the eyes of others. I began to explore this two-ness and the double consciousness he spoke about in my own work. It was the beginning of helping me to understand my own specific experience as a Black British woman.

Was there an initial struggle for you, dealing with identity as a black British woman?

I think for every young girl dealing with identity is tough, but there is a specific inner turmoil that forms around having to figure out who you are when issues of race and gender come into play. I walk through the world with a multifaceted sense of self. Some days I feel so sure of my identity, like my life is up to me and other days I am in a state of crisis. My work helps me to explore these feelings.

How does your artwork reflect your current social/economic beliefs?

I want more black people to feel like they can be themselves. I feel crazy and weird 90% of the time and my work is a space that I’ve designated to help me with those feelings. I relate to any black person who is struggling with any inner turmoil they can’t seem to move past. I want more black people to know that they can express how crazy they feel, their feelings of sadness and be vulnerable without having to feel like they are being weak or going against any idea of blackness. 
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