Oxford highlights diversity with more portraits of black alumni

Among the alumni honoured with portraits are Dr Anne Marie Imafidon, Naomi Kellman and Professor Dapo Akande

HONOURED: Dr Anne Marie Imafidon (Photo: Fran Monks) and Naomi Kellman

SEVERAL EXHIBITIONS are currently running across Oxford University colleges celebrating the achievements and contributions of female and BAME students since they became a co-educational institution.

As part of the collections some of Oxford’s colleges have selected stand out alumni, staff and Fellows to honour with portraits on their dining hall walls. 

The artwork expands on the previous Diversifying Portraiture initiative, launched in 2017 to broaden the range of people represented around the University.

Those honoured include:

Naomi Kellman

Kellman is a graduate of Lincoln College, who studied philosophy, politics and economics (class of 2008), and now co-chairs the Black Alumni Network and is senior manager for Schools and Universities at Rare Recruitment. She was featured in an exhibition celebrating 40 years of women at Lincoln College and was also invited to write a short piece reflecting on her time at Lincoln and what the exhibition means to her. 

She said: “I feel very proud to be featured alongside such wonderful women and in the hall that I spent so many evenings in. For me, it’s a symbol of belonging. And I hope that many more black women share in that feeling of belonging at Oxford in the years to come.”

Professor Dapo Akande

Dapo Akande

Prof Dapo Akande has become the first black professor to be honoured with a portrait at St Peter’s College, Oxford. She is a professor of Public International Law at the Blavatnik School of Government, fellow at Exeter College and co-director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC).

Alexandra Wilson

A graduate of University College (UNIV), who studied philosophy, politics and economics (class of 2016), and is now a barrister specialising in family law. Wilson’s portrait was unveiled as part of the latest update to the Young UNIV Gallery. 

Alexandra Wilson

Of being recognised, she said: “I couldn’t be prouder to have my picture hanging on the wall of the oldest college at Oxford University. Today we celebrated 40 years of women at Oxford, next year we’ll have our first female master at UNIV & the first black master at Oxford. We’re making history!”

Renee Kapuku

Renee Kapu (Photo: Fran Monks)

Kapuku, a graduate of Keble College, works for a non-profit organisation, Malaika DRC, which aims to provide education and sustainable resources to young girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tweeting about the honour, she said: ‘Super grateful to Oxford University & Keble College for celebrating me as one of their 28 most inspirational people since the college’s founding in 1870. Maybe one day I’ll have a permanent place.’

Dr Anne Marie Imafidon MBE

Dr Anne Marie Imafidon also features in the Keble College exhibit. An honourary fellow of the college and a graduate of Maths and Computer Science (class of 2006), Dr Imafidon co-founded Stemettes, an award-winning social enterprise aimed at inspiring and promoting the next generation of women and breaking down social stereotypes. 

She has gone on to become a powerhouse in the STEM sciences. Her championing work earned her an MBE in 2017, a place on the Forbes List of The World’s Top 50 Women in Tech 2018 and an inclusion in the rapper Dave’s recent music video for his empowering hit ‘Black’. Of the accolade, Dr Imafidon said: ‘There’s a portrait of me (& 27 others) hanging in Hall at Keble College and it is honestly one of the most surreal things that has ever happened in my life.’

Others honoured include Bonnie St John, a Rhodes Scholar who is a graduate of Trinity College, where she studied for M.Litt in economics (Class of 1990), and Roma Tearne, who completed an MA at the Ruskin School of Fine Art in 2002, and went on to be the Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the Ashmolean Museum from 2002-2003.

Dr Rebecca Surender, Pro Vice Chancellor and Advocate for Equality and Diversity, said: “It is not enough to just say you are inclusive university, you have to show it, and ensuring that all students and staff feel at home at Oxford, and can relate to those on the walls around them is a key part of this. It is so important to highlight the full range of diversity at Oxford and to remember the contributions of our BAME alumnae. I hope the installations inspire a wider range of students, and helps them to feel that they belong here.”

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