University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Self-Representation – Women of Colour in Publishing Event

Florence Dutton

ByFlorence Dutton

Oct 29, 2018

Over recent years, relentless injustice has caused a surge in female self-reclamation, especially across the media. More and more women from marginalised communities and backgrounds are coming forward to utilise their creative skills and regain a sense of autonomy that is so often lost or stolen through false representation within the media.

On 23 October, students had the opportunity to attend ‘Self-Representation – Women of Colour in Publishing’, a panel discussion hosted by Decolonise Sussex at Lighthouse, a local digital arts organisation. The event was led by a collection of publishers, writers and editors at the very forefront of the print revolution, who led the discussion exploring the importance of building a revolution in identity politics.

Each panel member discussed how their publications provide a platform for those struggling to find a voice in today’s society, as well as the implications of collective power in performing their own narratives.

Georgina Johnson, founder of ‘The Laundry Arts Programme’, spoke about her self-produced publication as a safe space for BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) female artists to fully express themselves, whilst destabilising the traditional gallery environments that many find unappealing and inaccessible. Fatuma Khaireh continued this topic, talking about the importance of publications acting as a newfound extension of identity.

Fatuma is a regular contributor to OOMK, a collective championing Muslim women in the Zine world. Imagination, creativity and spirituality are at the very core of each of their publications, with their central focus being on celebrating the reclamation of identity on their own terms, rather than educating the masses.

Projected onto the board above Fatuma was a striking image of herself on one of OOMK’s front covers. She described it as ‘cyberpunk’, exploring the concept of ‘weaponizing the internet’. This was shown to be an extremely powerful means of regaining control over the constant misrepresentation of Muslim women in the media and in Western culture.

2014 and 2015 were undoubtedly years of intense radical and political change, sparking an array of DIY avenues for creative work. This fresh and organic method of publication is only becoming more necessary for those wishing to break into the world of journalism or publishing.

Editor and author Variadzo drew attention to this, emphasising the appeal of DIY publications when compared to the exceptions imposed by mainstream publications. She advised attendees to tackle a predominantly white-dominated industry by being aware of publications’ tendency to take advantage of fresh creative minds. She also stressed the importance of not being afraid to get involved with schemes specific to marginalised communities, something that was echoed by each member of the panel.

Artist Evar Hussayni acknowledged that writing isn’t the method of expression that she feels most comfortable with, as she prefers photography as a way of communicating her ideas and feelings. However, feeling inadequate with your writing skills should never deter you from having a creative voice.

Her photography can be seen in AZEEMA, an independent print magazine dedicated to the work of women within the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and women of colour. It is a publication that prides itself on confronting the issues surrounding diversity in the fashion industry, creating an inclusive space for ‘girls with the courage to rebel’.

It was made clear throughout the evening that rebellion isn’t the central aim for artists, publishers and writers, but rather an uncensored freedom of expression. Inspiring many across the globe to come forward and participate in self-reclamation, they highlighted the importance of creative platforms in acts of self-expression. Georgina made the brilliant point of urging budding artists and writers to ignore the red underlining in Word, perhaps a metaphor for the subconscious censorship we all experience during the creative process.

Decolonise Sussex plan to continue campaigning to tackle institutional racism, both inside and outside the classroom, with their event only emphasising the lack of creative space given to marginalised communities in mainstream media, as well as advertising our need for more inclusive platforms of publication. Every speaker across the evening drew attention to the fact that word by word, image by image, any form of dialogue is progressive.

Image Credit: Pixabay, ReadyElements

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