Let Me Introduce Myself: a film exploring the importance of name pronunciation
As part of Black History Month and the Fashion Space Gallery’s next exhibition ‘Melanin Modalities in Fashion and Culture’, Student Communities and Activities Coordinator at LCF, Sachan Popo-Williams produced a short film ‘Let Me Introduce Myself’ which explores how our names are an adaptation of our identity and the importance of pronunciation. We caught up with Sachan to find out how this project came about, the importance of our names, and what she learned from speaking to staff and students throughout this process.
How did this project come about?
Generally, good conversation with the right people in comfortable environments produces great ideas! and this is exactly how this project materialised. Over the last few years, Rob Phillips (Creative Director, School of Design Technology) and I have aimed to bring students and staff together to appreciate, acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month through the lens of fashion and culture. This year we wanted to take a more direct approach to produce a multisensory exhibition where visitors could explore contemporary cultural projects in the context of fashion, to truly uncover the unseen, and unknown, and find origin and authenticity.
Among our many conversations we discussed name pronunciation and its importance, this led me to reflect on the #MyNameIs social media campaign and 'Name Pronunciation' training I completed in 2017 with the UAL Intercultural Communications team. Using this training as a starting point, the aim for these videos was to help inspire and inform others to open their own collective understanding and experience of culture and connect staff and students through knowledge exchange, which in turn ignites research, entrepreneurship, and opportunity.
What is 'Let Me Introduce Myself' about?
Many people use their name(s) or an adaptation of their name to represent their brand, business, or collection. Our names, the names we respond to, maybe reflective of history, space, and culture. They might symbolise a family tradition, enriched meaning, or perhaps a sentiment to our lives. Therefore, it is important that the pronunciation is correct, as we would when referencing designer brands such as Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Mont Blanc or Christian Louboutin.
Why was this project important?
Names are the very foundation of linguistic communication and are central to our identities, making us unique and distinctive from one another. Pronouncing someone's name correctly isn't just common courtesy and far more than just the syllables that come out of someone's mouth. It's an important effort to create an inclusive society, a way to emphasise safety and belonging. Therefore, when there is no effort given to pronounce someone's name correctly, it suggests that you're choosing your own linguistic comfort over their identity. It can show that their identity is overlooked and that can translate into a microaggression. Simply asking someone 'how do you pronounce your name correctly' or 'how is that phonetically pronounced' sets the tone of an inclusive environment.
How was the film produced?
Pre-Production, started with an open call to staff, students, and alumni to volunteer to get involved. After reaching out to a variety of people, 10 individuals signed up to take part. Throwing myself into the deep end, I spoke with LCF's Content Production team (Technical Resources and Learning Environments) to help me set up the equipment, planted my feet behind the camera, and took on the 'camerawoman' role. Thanks to Alex Campbell for showing me the ropes!
Post-production, during the pandemic, I decided to enhance my digital content skills by getting my brother (who's a film editor) to teach me the fundamentals of Adobe Premier Pro, so this project gave me another opportunity to put this into practice. From jump cuts to lower thirds and colour grades I tried to introduce a personable style to how the interviews were presented – call me Ava DuVernay by 2024!
What did you learn through this project?
My role as Student Community Activities Coordinator is rooted around making connections and bringing people together. Through listening to each person's story behind their name, it centered me in the back row and opened my ears wider to the great stories being told in the room.
By building more experiences like this I truly believe we can create a safe space to share, learn, reflect and make the changes needed to create a more just and equitable work environment, by yielding positive and transformative conversations. We do not have all the answers but by acknowledging that each of us is an expert in our own experiences, we can lead and facilitate these difficult and sometimes painful, but always important conversations.
To watch Sachan’s video 'Let Me Introduce Myself' in full, visit Melanin Modalities at the Fashion Space Gallery, a multisensory exhibition that features poignant and dynamic work from leading LCF staff, students, and alumni that explores Black culture and history, through the lens of fashion. The exhibition is open until 22 October 2022.
- See all UAL 2022 Black History Month events on Canvas
- See all UAL 2022 Blach History Month events for students on What’s on
- Read more on LCF’s Black History Month webpage
- Read more on Fashion Space Gallery
- See more work from LCF alumna Safeen James
To help others understand how to pronounce your name why not try 'Name Badge' created by NameCoach, it provides a simple and effective solution using audio name pronunciations which once recorded can be added to your email signature.