BBZ and the Tate are celebrating what it means to be a queer person of colour
16 Dec 2017
This weekend, BBZ, the masterminds behind some of London’s best PoC centred queer nights, exhibitions and installations, took over the Tate as a part of the Tate Exchange residency. Initially started by duo Tia Campbell and Nadine Davis, BBZ has now grown into a larger collective encompassing a plethora of avenues. Whether it’s recreating childhood bedrooms at Afropunk Festival or hosting killer DJ sets in the V&A Museum, BBZ are at the forefront of championing all things celebrating QTIPoC (queer, trans, and intersex people of colour).
Over four days, BBZ took over the Tate with a collection of incredible events centring queer, trans and non-binary people of colour. From BBZ Late where you could bust the wickedest wine, to a conversation between generations.
“From BBZ Late where you could bust the wickedest wine, to a conversation between generations”
Firstly, I attended a collection of short films curated by BBZ member and gal-dem resident DJ, Rabz, which explored themes of black queerness. Zaya was a heartwarming French coming out story whilst Vow of Silence followed one woman’s journey to find her voice again after a break up. My favourite was We Love Moses, a British queer coming of age story.
There were live shape-ups at TENDERHEADED with Kindredkuts, an “interactive barbershop exploring intimate expressions of queer points of view”. TENDERHEADED perfectly replicated a black barbershop, complete with hairstyle pictures, shea butter and Olive Oil moisturiser. Each barber chair had audio where you could listen to the stories of QTIPoC folks. If you were lucky enough, you could book in a free haircut from one of the barbers.
Blaq Transmission was marketed as “an honest, open and authentic conversation” by trans people of colour with Kai-Isaiah Jamal, Munroe Bergdorf, Travis Alabanza and Chloe AD Fiilani talking on the panel. It was eye opening, and refreshing to say the least.
They discussed how trans representation isn’t inclusive and as Munroe put it, trans people are “not actually allowed to be trans and great.” The panel explained how white trans women with a certain privilege, and cis-passing attractive women dominated trans visibility in the media. They expressed how language needs to evolve to include trans people and the ways that we, as a society, are defining womanhood need to be reexamined.
More than anything, their talk made me question what myself, as cis person, was doing to support and uplift trans people. Whether it’s through donations, giving platforms to trans people, or making sure we prioritise their safety, and that spaces are inclusionary for everyone, cis people must be more active. Cis people, and white people, need to listen and take time to be in these conversations because trans violence is real and an urgent problem.
“Cis people, and white people, need to listen and take time to be in these conversations because trans violence is real and an urgent problem”
In a world that erases the voices, stories, and work of queer, trans and non-binary people of colour, it was nourishing to see a room full of like-minded people coming together to engage and celebrate queerness. It was also encouraging to watch families discover and stumble into the space and hopefully learn and take something away from the work that BBZ do.
Although the rest of the Tate Modern stuck to its usual clientele, the Tate Exchange was a beautifully curated safe space. Between events there was an A-Z glossary of terms within and beyond the QTIPoC sphere (a glossary I hope to see in schools one day). There was great music, a zine-making workshop, a QTIPoC creatives directory, glossy plants and a general all-round good vibes.
I’m glad that big institutions like Tate are collaborating with collectives like BBZ to bring important issues and a celebration of queer culture to the forefront.
Find more info on the exhibition here.