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Themes/ Identity: masculinity identity

an image of a naked person curled up into a ball on the floor
an image of a naked person curled up into a ball on the floor
Othello De’Souza-Hartley, ‘Wall’, 2013. Photograph, courtesy of the artist.
Written by
Othello De’Souza-Hartley
Published date
28 June 2021

Fine art tutor Othello introduces you to artists and creatives that work within similar themes to his own creative practice.

I am a mixed media artist. My artistic mediums include photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting. I spent 8 years working on a project exploring 'Masculinity'. The subject can be explored in different ways: gender, black male masculinity, mental health, white work class men, gold standard (the term given to what men think they have to achieve materialistically by a certain age).

Below I share some artists, writers and cultural theorists I looked at and continue to research. The links give an insight into how artists/creatives have explored masculinity from different perspectives.

The links shared are not to shape your way of thinking but to create awareness and conversations. Whilst doing the 'Masculinity' project, I kept an open mind on different viewpoints about masculinity before narrowing down the area I wanted to focus on.

As mentioned in the 'Future Fluid' film by Gucci, the young people in the film talk about creating dialogue and using the internet to connect with other young people around the globe. Through open discussion, we get to know other people's perspectives. We might not agree, but it gives us an understanding and widens our knowledge.

You may want to consider how much of ourselves we share and how we can take on the role of the performer. At school, I never liked football but said I did to fit in with other boys.

I recently went to the London Design Biennale 2021 at Somerset House and was struck by the work by Finland-born and London-based artist and designer Enni-Kukk Tuomala. The work exhibited  titled 'Empathy Echo Chamber' I noted the words below from her film you may want to consider:

● Do you see people around you?

● How do you feel seen in your daily life?

● Do consider other perspectives?

● What does empathy mean to you?

bell hooks: cultural theorist

an image of two people talking into microphones on stage
Image courtesy of The New School.

Her real name is Gloria Watkins, her first book she published 'Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism,’ under her pen name, bell hooks, in honor of her maternal great-grandmother, Bell Blair Hooks. She is an author, activist, professor and cultural critic.

Read ‘We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity’ (2004) Anthology of insightful cultural criticism of how white culture marginalizes and represses black men.

Watch our ‘Video Picks: bell hooks and Laverne Cox talk feminism

Iggy London: filmmaker, artist, writer

an portrait of multiple people from the shoulders up
Photograph: Iggy London. Still from 'Black Boys Don't Cry'.

Iggy London’s work touches upon themes of identity, community, race and coming of age. Known for his distinctive style and telling gripping surreal stories, his work crosses many mediums from film to poetry. He is currently in the process of writing his debut book ‘MANDEM’.

Watch ‘Black Boys Don’t Cry’ in full on YouTube

Explore more of Iggy’s work on Iggylondon.com

Follow Iggy London on Instagram: @iggyldn

Jawara Alleyne: fashion designer

two images, one displaying a garment being worn, the other with the garment hanging up
Photographs: Jawara Alleyene

Jawara Alleyene graduated from London College of Fashion in 2016, Jawara has since co-founded Nii Agency (a model agency in London dedicated to diversity) with photographer and collaborator, Campbell Addy. Jawara graduated with a Masters in Fashion from Central Saint Martins in 2020.

In his research as a designer he contemplates notions of identity to breathe life to a new man and a new vision of menswear. Jawara sits at the intersection of exploring masculinity and conscious design for the man who choses to define himself. Growing up in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands also plays an important role in the stories he tells in his work and his approach to design.

Read Jawara’s  ID magazine interview by Mahro Seward

Follow Jawara on Instagram: @jawaraalleyne

Professor Green: rapper and documentary filmmaker

Professor Green interview (2018) on white working classes

Video: Channel 4

Professor Green was a bright young student but traumatic events in his life meant that he left school without qualifications. He overcame these setbacks and forged a career in music and the public eye. Most recently he’s developed a series of documentaries about pressing issues including mental health, poverty, depression and suicide. He is the patron of CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), a leading movement against suicide.

Follow Professor Green on Instagram: @professorgreen

Trevante Rhodes - Moonlight (2016): Performance and representation

a movie poster displaying a face of a person and the title 'moonlight'
Photograph: Wolf Gan on Flickr

When exploring modern masculinity and sexuality be careful of cliche images as seen in some fashion magazines where images are often of men wearing flowers in their hair or flowery tops. In contrast the fIlm Moonlight explored male sexuality without the stereotypical representations of a gay male.

Watch the Moonlight trailer on YouTube

Explore these themes further:

Books:

Jack Urwin - Man Up: Surviving Modern Masculinity

Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between the world and me

Robyn Travis - Mama can’t raise no man

Grayson Perry -The Descent Of Man

Articles:

Ib Kamara: ‘The Cross-Cultural Stylist Reassessing Masculinity’ on designyoutrust.com

Interview with Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture on vogue.cz

‘Alot of us are in the dark about what teenage boys really think about being a man’ on theguardian.com

Part of how to be a boy: a masculinity special on theguardian.com

‘We need to talk about male suicide – and not just when celebrities suffer’ Richard Taylor on theguardian.com

‘Redefining masculinity; what has fashion done?’ on medium.com

‘Tyler Mitchell in Conversation With Ryan McGinley’ on anothermag.com

‘Young Photographer Tyler Mitchell Redefining Black Masculinity’ on nobasicgirlsallowed.com

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