Moving on…

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela

It’s that time of the year where the Shades of Noir team goes through a transition.  This transition is inevitable as our overseas team members graduate and consider their VISAs and future lifestyle choices, or they have committed and completed the 18 months contract with us and are ready to try different things.  Either way it is a time of moving on, using all that has been experienced on this journey for their futures and the learning that is to come.  Shades of Noir  is a growing family that has always sets to maintain the relationship of our teams over our nearly 10 years.  We are a learning ‘community’ as much as we are other things.

In keeping with the ‘community spirit’,  I will share some of the highlights of those in the core team that are moving on and graduating this week.

Jay – Photographer & Content Developer  

Jay was an overseas graduate that had a successful creative career in Korea before entering into her MA at Central Saint Martins.  She joined the team during the middle of her studies as a photographer.  Her eye for visual communication was powerful from the beginning.  She accompanied content developers during interviews and photographed many.  I was only able to see her in action when she joined me to interview Deputy Vice Chancellor Stephen Reid .  It was during this interview that I realised that the wonderful outcomes I had seen are as much about her process as the outcome.  She is almost invisible, it is this that allows her to people watch, then choose the moment that encapsulates the spirit of the person.  

During Jay’s time she become more comfortable to share her views, histories and concerns about the world around her.  She also started to articulate these in the developing content.  This was a very personal choice, to be able to share ideas such as colourism within the South East Asian context was a huge challenge for Jay and I am forever grateful to my teams over the years that continue to create spaces where this is possible, and I acknowledge Jay’s personal courage.

Jays farewell and acknowledgement of her contribution to the ‘Visible faces in White Spaces’ exhibition was the moment in which it was clear that she had made lifelong friends within the current team, that her time with us meant that she was able to articulate the injustice she had personally experienced or witnessed.  This included the types of social constructions that affect her community directly.  It was an emotional farewell.  I salute you Jay.

Mica – Content Developer


Mica was an overseas US student who joined the team during her MA at Central Saint Martins.  Micas content and illustrations have been a powerful contribution to the Shades content. Micas content was wonderfully sensitive and centred very much in her early contributions around people of colour interviews and some comic illustrations.

Mica originally an Oxford graduate in History, joined our team as a confident feminist who came to us (I think) to be challenged, as well as to understand and unpack her own privilege to then find ways of utilising this positively. As a self defined ‘White, Cis female, American’ I think she wouldn’t mind me saying she sometimes found it hard to contextualise her whiteness within the content of the work we do at Shades until towards the end of her time.  I think when I suggested she write a reflective piece as she was nearing the end of her contract, neither of us considered the significance.  It was the honest and vulnerable piece titles ‘My Shades Experience’ that she wrote, which was the only piece that centred around herself.  I was so very proud of her for writing this piece and know that this was not an easy contribution but she did it anyway.  

While she was working with Shades the political situation in the US changed, the election of Trump really affected her deeply, and Micas political activism started to be a common thread in her content .  Mica has from the start of her engagement with Shades always wanting to be an ally, this opened all of the team to embrace her and trust her enough to have some difficult conversations that no doubt will stay with her and them forever.  Trust is a honour to be earned and Mica definitely earned it.  I salute you Mica.

Katayoun (also known as Katy) – Content Developer


Katayoun joined us during the early period of their second year of their BA at Central Saint Martins.  At that time they wanted to be called ‘Katy’ and used the pronoun ‘her’.  In much of their content Katayoun is exploring themselves, the world they live in and how this world receives them.  Katayoun has taken me and the Shades team on this journey.  This has included gender and sexuality concepts, as well as a narrative as a person of colour.  This has not been easy but fruitful as they developed leadership, knowledge and passion for social justice.  They were able to put these into practice through events such as ‘Beyond Gender’ and ‘Queer Bodies’.

Through this journey Katayoun has displayed a heightened self love and pride of self that is exhibited now in all facets of their work.  This includes the use of her birth name ‘Katayoun’ and pronoun ‘they’ now too.  Katayoun has illustrated pain, vulnerability and anger through variety of discourses, as well as empowerment, solidarity and bravery through critical practices including considerations around anti blackness from people of colour and writing in her mother tongue Farsi.

Katayoun has brought a powerful integrity that has sometimes exposed trauma through their content and I feel privileged that this was the place that they chose to bare some of their soul .  I hope the power they have developed with us will aid them in their elected role as a Student Union Officer and everything that follows. I salute you Katayoun.

Without community, there is no liberation…but community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”  Audre Lorde

These 3 individuals join the legacy of those Shades teams before them of thoughtful change making creatives and academics such as Darren Rochford (RIP), Nathaniel Richards, Gerard Hanson, Christopher Wareham, Dr Deborah Gabriel, Dr Kimathi Donkor, Diana Donaldson, Terry Finnigan, Ayo Banton, Osie Bonsu, Montana Williamson, Sicgmone Kludje, Julie Villard, Pamela Kember, Amishi Parekh, Laura Raphael, Vladimir Molico, Martin Sarreal, Bolanle Tajudeen, Eva Wilkinson, Cynthia Silevira, Phalinda-Tavia Wakadima, Samina Rahman, Kairon Edwards, Cai Zhang and the hundreds more Shades contributors…I salute you all always.