People of Colour, Colouring: interview with curator Eldon Somers
24 Mar 2017
This month, Denmark Hill’s new residents, Forty Seven LDN opened their doors for an exhibition launch that sought to paint the white walls vivid. People of Colour, Colouring (POCC) is a new exhibition gracing South East London in a bid to make the art world less pale, male and stale. POCC rolled out earlier this year with an ambitious Kickstarter campaign, bidding for supporters of a multi-faceted programme of artists of colour. One month later, the exhibition opened, the first of many immersive evenings exhibiting an assortment of artists of colour, promoting, as they describe it, “inclusion and cohesion”.
Conceptualised and run by 24 year old musician and artist Eldon Somers, POCC will be the jumping off point for “people of color coming together and being colourful”, he says. “It’s about promoting the diversity of artists and their vision… it’s about unity” Eldon adds. It’s also about collaborative efforts that spur from mediums further afield. Eldon relays his brainchild moment, when POCC came to fruition. He used lyrics from ‘an encyclopedia’, a track by a musician he refers to as a “young cat”, American rapper Milo, for the exhibition name. Making sure to receive Milo’s blessings, POCC’s namesake has been personally accredited. “Milo had a show in London,” Eldon says. “I approached him, told him I got this idea, and he was like ‘yeah, that’s dope!’”
In an industry that can seem frustratingly impenetrable for BAME creatives, housing both budding and established artists of colour is definitely encouraging. “Once you have these voices, those who feel a similar way may be encouraged to share perspectives and ideas with one another leading to more experimentation and creativity,” says Eldon, who wants POCC to be a gateway to showcase artists of colour, especially as South London is fast becoming the cultural cataclysm for citizens of the world. “Visibility is a start,” he offers. “POCC is one more example of the people, who feel they have been left out or shut out, making sure their roles in the arts, and wider culture don’t continue to be ignored.”
The first exhibition featured artists Alexander Ikhide, Alfie Kungu, Lilian Nejatpour and Rochelle White. Out of the compendium of works, visual artist Alexander Ikhide and Rochelle White, who recently appeared at gal-dem’s V&A takeover, transmit intimate, familial perspectives on race and heritage, especially to Caribbean and African diasporans. A multi-medium collage of personal portraiture, reveals disjointed, fragments and configurations of identity for Ikhide. White’s untitled photography series consists of an Ackee and Saltfish tin, a carton of Peanut Punch which aptly flows to the centre image: Dragon Stout, a quintessential Jamaican beer that’s smooth, treacled liquor moves me back to the rhythms of carnival with every sip. Each image unabashedly proclaims the heart of the Jamaican kitchen. This exchange of cultural history, and the waves of nostalgia that accompany it, characterises the ethos of POCC for the first time curator. “My hope is that people come together and share. This could be the artists communicating their experiences through works, leading others to gain a particular insight about how this person understands the world and what that means,” Eldon says. “The point is everybody comes down and gets a little thing from each other.”
There’s isn’t any overruling theme or specificity for POCC to host artists that only target these cultural dartboards. It’s about extending a hand to all forms of artists/creatives who fall under the banner; “whether they are Black, Brown, Arab, Eastern Asian or anything in between…the emphasis here is diversity. Diversity of perspective and diversity of medium.” Zealous Graduate Art award winner, Lilian Nejatpour, moved her subject focus to social media, and our growing detachment from IRL interactions. Honing in on the conventions of emoji and messenger communications, Nejatpour seeks to question the infiltration of our “double tick culture”. Tattooing a collection of voiced commentaries onto distressed latex pieces, of which she cut, dyed and coloured herself, Nejatpour extends her interest to the novelty and deconstructed romance of modern dating. “Let autocorrect do the talking” is one of many phrases that reads as commentary of our modern day interaction.
Moving forward, the show will be making a conscious call out for more people of colour artists creating and innovating across the creative domain. This includes fine art, photography, music, literature, poetry, theatre, fashion and anything else for that matter. But music is a big force in this, and there’s much of it spilling out from Eldon, who plays me through his creative journey, as we chat on the day of de-installation at the gallery. He has kindly lent his curatorial finesse to compile a short list of under the current artists that are teasing his ears.
“A new artist coming out of Brooklyn who made mostly film work in the past. Her voice is great and her melodies instantly get stuck in your head. This tune is a response to catcalling and the video is wicked too. (She also did a ‘Bad and Boujee’ cover/remix which is a lot of fun).”
VMO$ & BOOFY
“This is a track by a duo coming out of Bristol. It’s from a four track release that came out on No Corner records and it’s a very interesting collection of ambient and bass sounds with an edge.”
“(Formerly of THEESatisfaction) is a dope artist coming out of Seattle and this track speaks for itself. She is also an artist that is queer, which shouldn’t matter but does! We need as many voices and perspectives represented as possible, especially in rap! She produced all the beats on her album from last year ‘No More Weak Dates’ and it’s an excellent introduction to her world.’
GEORGIA ANNE MULDROW
“Is an artist everybody should know. I could have picked any song from this album (A Thoughtiverse Unmarred, 2015) but I love this joint because of the reggae step in the beat and her incredible words. She talks about some very pertinent issues but never comes off preachy. She is versatile too and uses her singing voice at the right times. Some quotes from Monoculture: ‘Let the blind lead the blind, but don’t let them change the climate, steal your diamonds or murk your island.’”
For future updates about People of Colour, Colouring, follow Eldon on Instagram @eldonsomers