Shades of Noir at Bournemouth University

Last week, three members of shades of noir visited Bournemouth University to teach a class run by Dr. Deborah Gabriel.

Aisha Richards, the founder of Shades of Noir, walked students through its development since 2008. Shades was informed by her research with recent UAL graduates of colour who reported the lack of visibility in teaching staff, lack of representation in both the curriculum and the artwork displayed, and concern for their ability to move from student to practitioner in the creative industries.

Targeting the attainment gap for students of colour and incorporating inclusive practice into teacher-training has remained a focus for the work done by Shades of Noir. And Dr. Deborah Gabriel has contributed to the organisation’s growth and its extension into domains such as curation and curriculum auditing.

Andrew Illman, Shades of Noir’s project manager, tried to get the class at Bournemouth to list creatives of colour within their own areas of interest (for many of them this meant advertising). He also touched on his forms of privilege (his race, his gender, his socio-economic standing, his education and so forth)–and how it was initially difficult to see how many aspects of his own upbringing were privileges, not norms. Andrew does not shy away from describing his privileges openly and honestly, hoping to provide context for who he was when he started working for Shades and the ways in which he is working for the human rights of those who have not been afforded such privileges. Both Aisha and Andrew touched upon the importance of inclusivity, and intersectionality, when it comes to the work Shades is doing–and how essential inclusive practice is for creating wide-reaching change and levelling the playing field.

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Although I was primarily behind the camera recording this session (where, admittedly, I’d much rather be than onstage) our trip had an impact on me.

I saw Shades of Noir through new eyes–explained to a group of third year Media studies students–and away from its familiar spaces. It caused me to reflect on my own privileges in a new context–and the ways in which I can be the most useful ally. And my biggest take-away in re-learning what Shades of Noir does is it’s focus on fostering inclusivity: whether this is through teacher-training, revising curriculums, facilitating events with practitioners in the creative industries, developing strategies to eradicate oppressive practices or through highlighting the voices and artwork of students and recent graduates. Our focus, quite simply, is on human rights.