Roy Mehta's 'Revival' explores Brent's multiculturalism between 1989–93

Revival book cover

Roy Mehta is a London-based photographer and in his latest publication, Revival: London 1989-1993, he reconnected with his roots in Brent, north-west London. The book is a collection of Roy’s photos taken in a 4-year period from the tail-end of the 80s to the early 90s.

During this time, in 1989, Roy was living in Farnham, but he knew the area of Brent like the back of his hand – he just hadn’t been there for a while. So he packed up his camera and started to wander the roads of his old hometown, taking pictures along the way and observing the streets that he once used to roam as a child. “I gradually got to know the people and began to be accepted into churches, pubs, homes, dancehalls and other places in the community,” Roy tells It’s Nice That. “This was a long time before digital photography and social media, so photography was a different kind of practice; people related to the camera in a different way.”

Quote from It’s Nice That

Revival: London 1989-1993 is available from Hoxton Mini Press and on Amazon. There will also be an exhibition of the work in March 2022 (you can check some of the photos from there too).

Sophia Tassew's Khula jewellery brand is dope

Sophia Tassew with 4 models wearing Khula earrings

Last year, I said I wanted to showcase more Black content, particularly creative endeavours and projects that deserve all the spotlights and this is the perfect example of that.

Khula is a jewellery brand by Sophia Tassew, a plus-size content creator from South East London. You may recognise her name from an earlier blog post I wrote about A Quick Ting On—she’ll be releasing a book about her experiences in 2022. In an interview with Bricks Magazine, she called Khula “a sort of homage to my parents who come from Ethiopia and South Africa.”

I’ve always wanted to have my own earring collection or design something. I always thought it would come in the form of a brand collaboration but it didn’t and still hasn’t so I decided to start it myself and learn how to make earrings. Also, as a plus sized girl, growing up, my fashion and style journey was tedious. You were forced to shop for clothes that were meant for people three times your age or the mens section. The only thing I could always rely on were earrings. They’ve been my savouir (sic) many times as well as a small representation of who I am and where I come from. So much growth has happened between then and now and that’s exactly what Khula means in Zulu, grow. 

Sophia runs Khula completely on her own, working very long nights and making her vast collection of earrings by hand, as well as packing and posting the products herself. It’s the epitome of a one-woman team.

I especially love the late 60s/70s vibe from the designs, which she said inspired her alongside her roots from East Africa and South Africa:

Taking inspiration from my heritage and putting that into my brand makes me feel so much closer to my roots in a way that I know how, and a language that I understand which is jewellery. I’m very interested in Black people from different eras and celebrating them and their looks.

If you can, please support Khula and buy something from the store when the next batch drops. And follow both the Khula brand and Sophia on Instagram.

(featured image taken by Chad McLean from Instagram [his website])

A Quick Ting On: a non-fiction series focused on Black British culture

Jacaranda Books is set to release A Quick Ting On, their first non-fiction series dedicated to Black British culture. The series has been curated by Magdalene Abraha and features the likes of Chanté Joseph (!!!), Tobi Kyeremateng (!!!), and Sophia Tassew (!!!)

Here are the eight books and their release dates:

  • A Quick Ting On: Afrobeats by Christian Adofo (7th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Plantain by Rui Da Silva (22nd October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Power Movement by Chanté Joseph (28th October 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: The Black Girl Afro by Zainab Kway-Swanzy (4th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Black British Businesses by Tskenya-Sarah Frazer (12th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Theatre Sh*t by Tobi Kyeremateng (19th November 2021)
  • A Quick Ting On: Grime by Franklyn Addo (2022)
  • A Quick Ting On: Bamboo Earrings by Sophia Tassew (2022)

This is exactly what we need and I’m so excited for this series and everyone involved. I’ll update with links as and when they come up.

Marc Wilson's 'The Last Stand' photo series

I loathe warfare or anything related to it but I’m making an exception for this since the photos are so captivating.

The Last Stand is a photo series by Marc Wilson that looks at relics of military conflict and the memories they hold.

The series is made up of 86 images and is documents some of the physical remnants of the Second World War on the coastlines of the British Isles and Northern Europe, focusing on military defence structures that remain and their place in the shifting landscape that surrounds them. Many of these locations are no longer in sight, either subsumed or submerged by the changing sands and waters or by more human intervention. At the same time others have re-emerged from their shrouds.

Marc took these photos over the course of four years and travelled 23,000 miles to get them. Locations include the UK, France, Belgium and Denmark.

You can buy a photobook of the series on Marc’s website.

Places I want to go when it's safe

A plane wing above clouds in the sky

COVID-19 has ruined a lot of things and while people are still travelling for their own reasons, holidays shouldn’t be one of them. And so I’m staying home until it’s safe to travel for that reason.

But when I can, I hope to visit these 5 cities at some point.

Lisbon, Portugal

I visited Lisbon for the first time in 2017 for my birthday and it was a revelation. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a new city in my life. The food was awesome, the architecture was breathtaking, and it cleansed my soul. I returned in 2018 but I’ve not been back since (I went to Nice to spend time with my parents for my 30th birthday).

It’s my mission to go back as soon as it’s safe and legal to fly.

Nice, France

It helps that my parents live there now but before that, I’d visited with my parents on holiday a few times, and my then-partner in 2015. Another Mediterranean city, it’s gorgeous in the summer, lovely food again, and more great architecture as well as a cool modern art museum featuring works by the likes of Yves Klein.

Leeds, UK

I was born in Bradford but never really spent time in Leeds besides the carnival as a kid. In my adult years, I’ve been a few times and it’s a really nice city. My last visit was last year for a solo Valentine’s vacay and my hotel was kind enough to do this:

Shout out Clayton Hotel. I will be back soon!

Chicago, USA

Last visit: July 2012. I went to see friends and, prior to Lisbon, it was my favourite city in the world. It still holds a place in my heart and I hope once it’s safe in all aspects of the word, I would like to go back and see my friends.

Tokyo, Japan

This is the only city on the list I’ve never visited but it’s on the proverbial bucket list. Besides experiencing the culture, trying the food, and taking lots of photos, I want all the Pokémon things and all the Game Boy things. And some vinyl. I’ll probably need £1000–£2000 spending money and an extra suitcase and I’m not joking.

Related: Photography by Liam Wong in Tokyo and Japan travel tips for first timers

Bridget Minamore's "When Will Theatre Come Black?"

bridget minamore

Presented by Bridget Minamore (Lines of Resistance, Titanic), When Will Theatre Come Black? is a look at Black theatre in Britain and the people that make it great:

Setting out her vision, Bridget asks if the confluence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the devastating impact of the pandemic on the theatre industry might be an opportunity to build a more egalitarian theatre sector with greater opportunity for black makers, performers, backstage workers, and audiences – and, as a consequence, for other marginalised groups.

The radio production features thoughts from the likes of Tobi Kyeremateng, Kwame Kwei Armah, Paulette Randall MBE and Roy Alexander Weise MBE, amongst others.

Listen to it on the BBC Sounds website.

"Why Didn't You Tell Me?" a podcast about the miseducation of life

Felix Prince, Thierry Ngutegure, and Tinashe Nyamande sitting on a sofa

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Thierry Ngutegure in person so I was thrilled to see he had co-created a podcast:

“Why Didn’t You Tell Me?” is a fun, open and honest look at how three young men who thought the stuff they were taught in school would prepare them to be successful, confident and stable young adults. Little did they know that Pythagoras theorem wouldn’t help them buy houses and Henry VIII wouldn’t get them work experience. The transition into adulthood is abrupt and real world knowledge is the true key – so let’s shift the balance. This platform pokes fun, educates and inspires the next and current generation.

Thierry is joined by co-hosts Felix Prince and Tinashe Nyamande and, in his own words, he wanted to “create a space to inspire and push young black people”, “talk about the stupid shit he’d done, the things we wish we’d known & how we uplift each other today.” That’s what we like to see.

You can like and subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, YouTube, and follow the trio on Instagram.

Related: The Nerd Council: an online platform for Black nerds, The Black-Archivist project, and Afrodrops: a Black-owned shop for Afro hair.

The best of Dick and Dom playing "Bogies"

Dick and Dom

I grew up with Dick and Dom on TV and while their brand of comedy wasn’t my thing, I loved when they played Bogies.

Bogies involved Dick and Dom taking turns to shout the word “bogies” at louder volumes with each turn. But the best part was the locations they played in—usually public places like libraries, cinemas, and supermarkets. The loser was the person who gave up. It was controversial but funny to see the reactions of both Dick and Dom and the bystanders watching the chaos unfold.

The game courted controversy (amongst a list of complaints that show received) but I guess it would in a repressed country like the UK.

Stream the best of Bogies below.

Dick & Dom - The Best of Bogies

FlyGirl: a community and safe space for womxn

FlyGirl

(Note: the words women and womxn will be used throughout the article. The former should apply to all women but unfortunately doesn’t to some who use it, as you’ll see, so womxn will be used where applicable.)

It’s funny how my Twitter timeline works. Within minutes of seeing a questionable article title from the BBC—“Women and women of colour continue to change the face of Congress”—I found a community that didn’t separate women of colour from the perceived default. It’s called FlyGirl.

In their own words, FlyGirl is “a community of like minded womxn who understand and appreciate the value of working together to achieve great things.” It was created by Avarni Bilan, who initially wanted to create a comfortable and safe space for womxn to support one another. But as the idea grew, her intentions shifted slightly:

“[…] as the idea was developing it then became really clear to me that the only way I would ever be able to do it authentically would be if it works to represent womxn of colour. I wanted to create a very practical response to the clear lack of representation that womxn of colour experience on a daily basis and be able to unapologetically address topics that may largely only apply to these womxn.”

Excerpt from Avarni’s LeftLion interview

​Based in Nottingham, FlyGirl offers local events to support womxn of colour in the Arts, as well as providing financial and practical advice so they can fully realise their dreams.

According to the website, FlyGirl is inclusive of the following groups:

  • Cisgender women
  • Queer women
  • Trans women
  • Non-binary people
  • Intersex people of colour

Other services include:

  • D&I workshops
  • Bespoke HR training
  • Company-wide training days
  • Unconscious bias training
  • Interview skills
  • Business evaluation and feedback

There’s also a FlyGirl Directory (similar to Rememory) for businesses to find WOC and make practical changes to diversify their workplaces (hopefully after some unconscious bias training).​

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that there is discourse around the term “womxn” and its intentions and impacts for trans women and non-binary people, as addressed in this Instagram post. I apologise if the terminology has offended or excluded anyone in this manner.

A UK Black History Month Post (2020)

Black people in a crowd

It’s been a challenging year to navigate and, needless to say, Black people are tired. Because of that tiredness, it’s meant that I’ve not been able to write as much about Black History Month this year. But rather than let it go without making the effort, I’ve decided to compile a list of articles about BHM and Black British people for you to read and people to follow.

From the Internet

From the Cultrface archives

People to follow

Stephanie Yeboah

Jason Okundaye

Bolu Babalola

Tobi Kyeremateng

Josh Rivers

Munroe Bergdorf

Isaac Eloi

Nicole Ocran

Kayela “LaLa Love” Damaze

Shahira Allen

Chanté Joseph

Jenn Nkiru on her work and Afro-surrealism

Jenn Nkiru

As part of the Jarman Award Touring Programme 2020, Black filmmaker Jenn Nkiru spoke with Sofia Lemos in conjunction with the Nottingham Contemporary.

They discussed her film Black to Techno (2019), Black musical histories and how the afro-surrealism in her work.

Jenn Nkiru is an artist and filmmaker. Pushed through an Afro-surrealist lens, her practice is grounded in the history of Black music and the aesthetics of experimental film and international art cinema. Her work draws on the Black arts movement and the rich and variegated tradition of cinemas of the Black diaspora and their distinct experimentation with the politics of form. Her work blends elements of history, identity, politics, music, documentary and dance.

Check out Jenn’s website for more of her work.

Sir David Adjaye’s best projects

Sir David Adjaye

Last week, Sir David Adjaye became the first Black architect to be awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by RIBA in its 173-year history. This was even more remarkable since less than 2% of registered architects are Black.

To honour the occasion, The Spaces picked 8 of the most iconic projects from his career.

Adjaye has worked tirelessly for the last 27 years, taking on projects that range from monumental public scales to intimate domestic spaces, each with an instantly recognisable aesthetic.

Amongst the chosen projects were The Stephen Lawrence Centre in South London and The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC.

Check the slideshow on The Spaces website.

20th Century Flicks: the last video rental shop

Nestled in an alleyway in Bristol is 20th Century Flicks, the world’s last video rental shop. Arthur Cauty directed a short documentary film about the shop, which has been open since 1982, featuring the owners and its employees talking about what it means to them and the community.

It’s an ode to the video shop experience and a bygone way of watching movies. With studios like Disney launching their own streaming services and joining industry kingpins such as Netflix and Hulu, we have an almost endless flow of entertainment available at the click of a button. It’s amazing to me that a little independent video store can survive the Netflix cull and even outlive Blockbuster. Drop into the shop next time you’re in Bristol for a dose of movie nostalgia, have a chat about film and go home with a VHS rarity and a bag of popcorn.

And if you’re wondering how 20th Century Flicks is doing during the pandemic, the shop isn’t open but a reduced service is underway:

We are currently on lockdown to keep the shop, staff and stock healthy. We are still able to post movies out to you (3 at a time for £12) including a clean prepaid envelope to return them. We’d like them back a couple of weeks after you’ve received them. For details and instructions, click here!

Imagine getting a late fee in 2020 from the oldest video rental shop in the world. I’d be so embarrassed.

Stream the documentary below and for more VHS nostalgia, check out the guy who made a fake video store in his basement.

The Last Video Store | a documentary on the World's oldest VHS & DVD rental store

(via Kottke.org)

The diasporan style of Grace Wales Bonner

A man in a brown jacket, sweater, and trousers.

The New Yorker profiled Grace Wales Bonner, a Black UK designer who draws inspiration from the African diaspora to create beautiful fashion rich in Black history.

The twenty-nine-year-old London-based designer—a slight woman with enormous intellectual and artistic ambitions—draws from the creative and thus political minds of the modern African diaspora, not only to inform her art but to reveal how style has grown out of the diaspora itself, linking together our fragmented worlds in ways that others may not have noticed, but that we have. Equally at home with Aimé Césaire and Léopold Sédar Senghor’s theories about Negritude as she is with the history of Christian Dior—last April, she worked with the fabled house to reinterpret its New Look—Wales Bonner has been sui generis from the start, in part because, unlike many other designers, she doesn’t reference the past to service trend; in her work, she aims to make the broken history of the Black artist and intellectual in African, European, and American culture whole.

For more about Grace Wales Bonner, check out this interview she did with The Gentlewoman.

The plantlife illustrations of Jim Spendlove

Jim Spendlove - Chillhop artwork

Have you ever seen a piece of art and known you’ve liked it but couldn’t find the words to describe it? As a writer, I should be able to conjure up a few adjectives to sum up Jim Spendlove’s illustrations but I’m totally blank. But I know I love them all.

I found his work today after browsing Bandcamp and coming across his cover art for Saltfeend’s new album, Skydrone. It reminded me of a landscape I’d see on Adventure Time—otherworldly yet organic. And so I went in search for more.

I loathe to use comparisons for artists as it can be derivative but Spendlove’s work reminds me of two of my favourite illustrators: Theodore Taylor III and Anthony Browne. There’s a hint of surrealism in their work but a strong sense of reality as well. Spendlove’s palettes are warm and comforting and I love the plant motifs.

So there you go. I found a few adjectives in the end. But sometimes, art speaks for itself and the messages in Spendlove’s work is more enriching than anything I could muster.

Follow his work on Instagram and his portfolio.