As an artist entering an academic research institution you will meet many challenges. As an artist of colour entering an academic research institution you will meet those same challenges and you will be occupying a space in a place that was not originally designed for you to flourish in.
Be faithful to who you are and where you come from. Your colleagues, your teachers, your supervisors and most of the texts you read will neither reflect nor contain your perspective, your experience or your culture. This institution needs you!
Be aware of your perceptions narrowing to those promulgated by the dominant academic paradigm, work hard to stay connected to your culture, your roots, your ethics, your aesthetics and your interests.
Read and read and read some more in order to familiarise yourself with academic artistic research language. Find a way to express your ideas in relation to art and to culture using that language. Transform the academic writing conventions so they fit your needs and resonate with your practices.
Name, confront and challenge any bigotry, bias, profiling, appropriation, lack of representation etc, that you come across, whether it comes from a lecturer, a supervisor, an administrator, a colleague, a friend, or a form you have to fill out. Call out any micro-agressions as quickly as possible. Do it via email, leave a written trail.
It may be confronting and upsetting to discover that some people don’t want artists of colour to shine. Recognise that, process that, remember that. And shine anyway.
Reach out for help if you need it. Seek counselling, join support groups, access social situations where you will meet other artists of colour. Connect with people who can recognise and help you to reflect on what you are going through.
Some of your peers, who are not artists of colour, won’t realise how different the experience is for you than it is for them. Let them know the many and myriad ways it is different. Help your peers to stand against racism with you.
As an artist of colour entering an academic research institution part of your work will be to draw attention to unconscious and institutionalised racism. This essential work will be happening in addition to your own demanding academic and artistic research program. Make a commitment to taking on this exhausting, frustrating, necessary, and transformative work.
Recognise the power you have to affect change. Teach the institution from your lived experience of it, recommend things for people to read and things for people to do, have many difficult conversations, create social contexts that can support both discomforting realisations and empathetic understandings, transform the institution so that it will be more ready for the ones that are coming after you
Written by Maipelo Gabang in collaboration with Rebecca Hilton.
This text is informed by written contributions from seven Southern African Academics/Artists of Colour, who prefer to remain anonymous.
The text was developed using the 10 Statements structure from Everybodys Toolbox everybodystoolbox.net/index.php?title=STATEMENTS
Gabang is a performer and facilitator whose educational background includes a B.A in Drama and Organisational Psychology and a MA in Choreography and Movement Research from Rhodes University in South Africa.
Gabang has worked and collaborated with institutions and organisations such as the Swiss Arts Council, The South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA), Mophato Dance Theatre and the South African State Theatre. As well as performed and showcased work at various international festivals and platforms.
Gabang firmly believes that creativity speaks directly to a country’s capacity for ingenuity. She is passionate about growing and developing the socio-economic role of the Creative Economy particularly in regard to Botswana’s arts, culture and heritage, and making it more accessible to African women by elevating their visibility and leadership.