LCF student Precious Seronga exhibits in Black History Month exhibition 'Looking Forward'
“After this year of awakening and movement towards acknowledgement of truths we were already too familiar and aware of, what do we want to share about our lived histories as they are now? Moving forward, how do we want our thoughts on Blackness and lived experiences to be documented, shared and learned from? What is the relationship between reflecting and evolving when it comes to our history and lived experiences? How can our image evolve through art for the future?” Rachel Williams, Arts SU Education Sabbatical Officer
In recognition and celebration of Black History Month 2021, Arts SU put out an open call for students to showcase their work in the Window Galleries at CSM to celebrate Black creatives at UAL. The theme for this year was “Looking Forward” - the relationship between reflecting and evolving when it comes to our history and lived experiences. The work for this year's Black History Month exhibition was selected and curated by the Arts SU's Sabbatical Officers and members of the African and Caribbean Society. Three of the exhibiting artists are LCF students, and we caught up with them to find out more about the influences inspiring their work, plus their thoughts on racism within the creative industries today. We begin the conversation with Precious Seronga, an MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation student, beginning her journey in exploring business opportunities.
To which extent do you draw upon cultural influences when undertaking projects?
I do it as much as I can, not only because it’s part of my identity, but it’s what makes me unique as well, especially being a minority while in the United Kingdom. It’s a chance for me to share the beauty and uniqueness of where I’m from, a great opportunity to create beautiful art, but also a form of education to people who may have not ever been to Africa or seen the beauty of the continent as I have noticed, there is not a lot of positive representation in the mainstream western media.
Can you give us an overview of your creative process while developing the idea for your pieces in the gallery?
The pieces were inspired by the current pandemic, how the use of the masks cover our facial expressions and our facial identity. Through Pinterest and Instagram, I saw artists trying to personalise their masks, using them as a form of self expression. This got me thinking about my background and inspired the idea of masks proudly showing an identity. I’m from a tribe called the Maasai from northern Tanzania and Kenya, and they create beautiful hand-made beadwork. This inspired me to design the colourful masks and have them made by Maasai women from Tanzania, to showcase this amazing traditional skill. The colours are drawn from the vibrant designs of Maasai jewellery and general aesthetic of African wax prints. With the shoot, the fantastic styling by Josh Gilzeane, was an “Afro-Haute Couture” feel, to match the intricacy of the designs.
What does it mean to you, to be a black woman in the creative arts?
To be part of a minority group in a very competitive industry and achieve opportunities like the Black History Month exhibit makes me so proud. That who I am and where I come from, and being able to show that in my own unique way is getting me noticed, just keeps me motivated to keep working and creating.
In your opinion, what are the biggest difficulties we face as a fashion industry striving to become anti-racist?
Brands not even attempting to learn from past mistakes, especially due to ignorance. I see time and time again, big luxury fashion brands coming out with collections that are then accused of cultural appropriation, the main reason being they never listen. Especially when people of colour ask for their work to be credited, instead of making it look like it’s theirs.
So you’re new to MA Fashion Entrepreneurship and Innovation at LCF – what made you take this direction?
During my Bachelors, after a lot of exploring of what practice I could specialise in, I finally found and became comfortable with illustration. During this exploration, I began to experiment with designing prints for fabric, and after good feedback from a final project - creating prints inspired by unique things from Africa - I decided I wanted to take this further to explore the business opportunities and possibly start a brand. A brand creating prints for fabrics that tell a story and have meaning (in this case about my background and where I’m from) that I can turn into a made-to-order brand. I have the creative idea down, but I needed to learn the skills to help me be a successful entrepreneur, and MA Fashion entrepreneurship at LCF looked like the best place to learn and start the journey.
View more work from BHM Exhibition: Looking Forward at CSM Gallery.
Find out more about UAL African Caribbean Society.