We’re only two thirds of the way through 2018 and I already know what my highlight will be, come the new year - curating and delivering Wakanda Wednesdays & Future Fridays together with Vero. This was the summer holiday project we dreamt up with and for young people who live and/or study in Islington, inspired by Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’, as well as my Eritrean background and Vero's Ethiopian heritage (go team Habesha!)
We invited local teens to create and share visions of their own Wakanda in the urban oasis that is our King’s Cross Skip Garden. Together with some amazing community partners, we encouraged the young people to connect to their inner hero through creative means, including illustration, photography, fashion, music and much more. The young people hail from places near and far - Bangladesh, Brazil, DR Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, Philippines, Scotland, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Turkey - so we wanted to create a space where we could all come together, using the year's biggest film's narrative, style and impact as a platform for speaking about issues close to all our hearts. We also wanted to help the young people prepare for their future careers by exploring their individual aspirations and taking them to world-class businesses in the King’s Cross area.
We've had an incredibly moving and fun month together with all the participants - sharing, laughing, singing, drawing, beat-making, rhyme writing, weaving, cooking, dancing and creating art together... I'm actually finding it hard to describe just how much this all meant to Vero and me - seeing young people come into their own exploring representation, equality, culture, history, Afro-futurism, free expression, wellbeing and connection to people and all of the natural world.
Here are some of the young people’s reflections of their experience in their own words:
“The hero within me is happy that I had to try many new things during this project because whilst I felt uncomfortable at times I had to try everything, and couldn’t use fear as an excuse to not at least try whatever activity or challenge I was faced with, whether it be making and producing a track for a song or doing a dance inspired by my ‘forest tribe’.
The hero within me learnt to put myself out there more than I ever would have this summer if it wasn't for this project. Although I felt extremely uncomfortable and awkward at times and just wanted to disappear, I’m glad I didn’t - mostly because I couldn’t, and had to learn to actually deal with the situations rather than run away from them.” - Amaal, 15
“During the summer, I've been able to be productive and to do something to give back to the world. I've learnt a lot and been able to meet new friends who have given me opportunities which I haven't received from other people. I was able to be myself and have fun without the worry of being judged or generally being self-conscious.” - Cassie, 15
“My favourite thing we did was attending the Autograph exhibition, exploring the different political works of artists who (I’ve learnt) made powerful statements about black culture as well as other cultures. We also got to gain insight in photography and how we can make a powerful piece of art.” - Lucy, 15
“The hero within me is a manifestation of all my experiences. The activities I have done and the projects that I have been a part of this summer as well as the people I have met through them have inspired me in so many ways. I believe the hero within me has started to grow, evolving each day I have done an activity this summer, though by no means do I believe that its growth will halt once this is over. It has inspired me both creatively and academically, opening up my eyes about my passions and ambitions. The hero within me is a morphing part of me, inspired by the people and the things that surround me and I am really grateful for being given these opportunities.” - Maedeh, 17
“The hero within me is flourishing continuously and has grown bigger and wiser through the Wakanda Wednesdays and Future Fridays programme. I feel that I have learnt a lot and had a sense of a diverse group of career options which inspired the hero within me to try different things, as there is always something new to learn and discover.” - Mariam, 14
- The London Borough of Islington for funding the whole programme
- The team at KX Recruit for giving us the perfect space to deliver an opening careers afternoon
- Lilly at AFRORETRO for delivering a beautiful session on upcycled fashion and creativity, inspired by her Ugandan heritage, including heart-shaped herb bag making and collage using materials such as bark cloth and banana leaf from her grandmother's home
- Wizdom at Tileyard Studios for giving the young people insight into music and other creative career paths, as well as invaluable advice about what it takes to make it in those industries
- Project Director Steve Griffith and Youth Mentors Richard and Amarni at Copenhagen Youth Project for the music session that pushed our young people's boundaries but saw hidden talents flourishing behind the mic!
- Our trustee Lela Kogbara for giving us a wonderful guided tour of Nelson Mandela: The Centenary Exhibition at the Southbank Centre, facilitating a special discussion on what makes a hero in our world and sharing her personal experience of anti-Apartheid activism - as well as of meeting the great man himself!
- Illustrator Araki Koman for beautifully sharing her story, her Guinean heritage, and her art career journey, as well as inspiring our young people to be free with their illustrations
- Toby Shannon and Olivia Keenan from IOP as well as Anita Chandran from Imperial College dropping knowledge about careers in STEM - physics in particular, then giving really useful feedback to our young people about their plans
- Adele at Bompas & Parr for welcoming us to the British Museum of Food: SCOOP exhibition, where the young people got a taste of science and heritage through the theme of ice-cream, no less!
- Ali Eisa at Autograph ABP for guiding us through Senegalese fashion and fine art photographer Omar Victor Diop’s powerful ‘Liberty/Diaspora’ exhibition and Indian-Kenyan visual artist Arpita Shah’s beautiful “Purdah - the Sacred Cloth”, before delivering an inspiring photography workshop for our group - all to a sweet vintage Sudanese soundtrack that sparked so much nostalgia for me
- The Windrush Foundation, Ayesha Hameed, the Mayor and all at City Hall for welcoming us to a deeply moving, momentous event for Remembering the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its Abolition on UNESCO's International Day of Remembrance
- CSM graduate Anoushkha Khandwala for sharing her experience and amazing work on decolonising design and diversifying the creative industries
- Rebeka Clark at TCV for telling us of the tireless effort that goes into Stave Hill Ecological Park
- Tamzyn, Shayanna and Leon from Kinetika Bloco for bringing the beat to our four Wakandan tribes - pretty much straight after carnival!
- Jodie and Mervyn at Printworks London for facilitating our visit from north of the river
- Apiarist and actress extraordinaire Esther Coles for bringing the story of our sacred Skip Garden honeybees to our young people
- Ted Baker’s Historian Peter McDonough for offering a really valuable careers taster to get the young people thinking about their passions
- Rebecca Alexander and Rebecca Cranshaw at Eurostar for hosting an introductory session to their business and the brilliant work experience opportunities within it
Thank you, each and every one of you - especially the fantastic members of the Global Generation Forest, Mountain, River and Fire Tribes!