The United Kingdom is a sovereign country consisting of 4 countries, a federal district, 14 British Overseas Territories, and 93,628 square miles of land. It’s tiny but thanks to pillaging and colonialism through the old British Empire, the UK has a major influence on the world. Read more about it on this tag page.
In 2015, I experienced a personal tragedy. I had to take some time off work to heal but I also needed distractions. One of them was to make a cultural “sister” site to Sampleface.
It has since been deleted but I tweeted my friend RKZ to say I should start a culture blog to showcase his photography and call it Cultureface (as it was known at the time). His response?
And so it began. But over 5 years have passed and I still hadn’t got round to doing that blog post. Until today.
Who is RKZ?
Besides being a childhood friend since junior school, RKZ (real name Rikesh Chauhan) is a singer, writer, photographer, music video director, producer, editor, social media manager and all-round creative polymath. I’ve had the pleasure of working with RKZ in the past and his attention to detail and creativity is second to none. I don’t know many photographers with an eye like his, although some say he has two.
He’s worked with a wide range of brands, agencies and organisations such as Turnbull & Asser, Born Social, CALM, and most recently, The Rake. He’s also a careers mentor at University of Westminster where he studied and graduated in 2011.
I grew up watching him dominate athletics in the 110m hurdles and, as a Black boy seeing a Black man with a similar skin tone and body shape as me bossing it amongst his peers was super inspiring. Even in adulthood, I enjoy listening to his punditry and commentary for the BBC. So while looking up clips of his old races, I found this 15-minute video detailing his journey through the Welsh language.
Colin Jackson was born in Cardiff in 1967 but his understanding of Welsh fell by the wayside during school as he explains in the video.
We had Welsh as Welsh lessons from the age of four, so I heard Welsh quite a lot. When I went from primary to secondary school, French and German were the language that was introduced to us then and I thought to myself well I’ll try something new and that’s when I completely lost the grasp of Welsh.
With the help of his mentor, Eleri Siôn, Colin practised his Welsh speaking skills in the best way possible – by immersing himself in Welsh culture. He taught school kids how to do hurdles, did a radio interview, showed off his dancing skills, and commentated on youth indoor athletics competition—all in Welsh.
Besides the fact it’s Colin Jackson, I found this so inspiring as an aspiring polyglot. I’ve been learning Portuguese for the past 3 years and while I’m nowhere near Colin’s level with Welsh, it was comforting to see his journey and I’ll be back on Duolingo from today, I promise!
Stream it below, or as they say in Wales, ffrydiau video isod.
The illustration lab from London is headed by Kazvare and blends blackness, cultural references and humour to create a distinct style of art that resonates. Kazvare studied Classics and African Studies at university before going into illustration full time. Creativity has always been a part of her life as she told Scribbler in a 2019 interview:
I’ve always loved drawing and not too long ago I found an old notebook that I wrote in when I was about 9 years old. I declared that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. And a chef, but let’s not dwell on that one.
The chef thing might not have worked out but the lab has been cooking up storms of comical collections, from gift cards to mugs and stationery. Arguably, its standout piece is the Beyhive Gift Collection with all things Beyoncé and design. Nothing says Black culture like Bey.
Remember Dasani? I’m talking to the UK readers because the US still stocks it and people still buy it for some reason. The ill-fated bottled water brand came and went like a flushed piece of toilet paper when it launched in the UK.
But comedian and YouTuber Stuart Ashen found a bottle that was 15 years old, unopened, and decided to have a taste with fellow YouTuber, Tom Scott. But why is this such a momentous occasion?
Whatever happened to Dasani?
The Coca-Cola water brand launched in 1999, to compete with Pepsi’s Aquafina. The first giveaway that something wasn’t right is the fact it’s filtered tap water with added sodium (using reverse osmosis). That’s not out of the ordinary or necessarily bad but… you can buy a Brita filter, turn the tap on, and get the same thing (minus the sodium).
But when Dasani was launched in the UK in 2004, it was a PR disaster. This was thanks to an unsubstantiated story that claimed the water was tap water from a suburb outside London which killed any hope of success for Dasani.
To rub sodium chloride into the wound, UK authorities also found a batch of Dasani contained levels of bromate above the legal limit for sale – bromate is a carcinogen. The FSA said there wasn’t an “immediate risk to public health” but that was enough for Coca-Cola to pack up and remove Dasani from UK shelves for good.
Dasani Water – not the choice in a disaster
With all the panic buying that’s going on, people in the US have been clambering for water. And guess which brand has been left? Dasani. I mean, why would you spend your money on it when there isn’t a pandemic?
Anyway, Tom also made a video called “Why You Can’t Buy Dasani Water in Britain” which you can stream below.
I love my West Indian heritage. Whenever I can, I claim it above being British as I feel more at home amongst family and my kinfolk. A part of that comes from the Jamaican cuisine and having to buy ingredients for certain dishes.
As a teenager, I’d have to go out to various ethnic shops (often South Asian-owned) but I also went to West Indian shops that stocked all the things my mum needed. I didn’t always enjoy doing it (who wants to run errands while you’re in the middle of playing video games?). But as I got older, it was nice to go for a walk and immerse myself in the culture.
So, here are 5 things my mum made me buy from West Indian shops.
Jamaican bread (or hard dough bread to everyone outside my family)
I didn’t know it was generally known as hard dough bread until my late teens. I always knew it as Jamaican bread and that’s what I call it to this day. It’s the best bread on the planet as far as I’m concerned. It’s thick, sweet, and demands a slab of butter on it by default.
In terms of size and shape, I started out buying the square-shaped loaves but as time passed, we moved onto the rounder loaves. It was a better choice. You got more bread for your money that way. Who cares if it’s misshapen? This ain’t Bake Off.
Bun (spiced bun)
There is no better bun out there. The Jamaican spiced bun is often eaten during Easter and that’s when I usually got it but the tradition extended to Christmas because why not?!
For anyone who hasn’t experienced this Jamaican delicacy, the bun is often round and dark brown, filled with currants or raisins and goes hand in hand with cheese (although I eat it with butter mostly). And a glass of milk to wash it all down. I’m sure the vegan alternatives would go superbly with it as well.
This often shocks people but I don’t like coconut. The taste makes me wretch, particularly if it’s desiccated coconut. Not a fan of the water. But the cream and the milk is fine in food… if the flavour isn’t prominent.
That’s how I managed to eat rice and peas with coconut cream in it for so many years. It was a Sunday staple and I’d regularly buy the boxed form from KTC.
My mum couldn’t eat her food without Encona. Had to be that brand. Recently, she’d been “slumming it” with Tabasco as they didn’t sell Encona where she lived. When I visited earlier this month, I brought two bottles of Encona for her. She was happy.
The pepper used in the sauce is the Scotch bonnet, which is more than 10x hotter than the hottest jalapeño. It’s no ghost pepper but it’s fire for anyone who can’t handle heat like me. You’ll definitely need another glass of milk for this one.
This wasn’t a regular purchase but still one I made. Some may know them as guineos in Latin America, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic and they’re basically unripened bananas. My mum would boil them and we’d eat them with dumplings (often boiled too but occasionally fried) and yam (we’ll get to that one later).
Not my favourite savoury food as it didn’t taste of anything so that’s when the gravy came in, to add some flavour.
Some of these weren’t exclusively purchased at West Indian shops but they were things I bought on my travels and remind me of my black heritage.
There was an art to buying the right yam. My mum did it most of the time but on the occasions I did, the pieces had to be clean-ish, big-ish, and cheap-ish.
Much like green bananas, I wasn’t a fan (in fact, I hated them as a kid). But my tastes matured and a bit of gravy went a long way.
KA drinks – Karibbean Kola or Black Grape
The Caribbean amber nectar. I know people love Supermalt but Karibbean Kola and Black Grape were my drinks. Sweet beyond words but the flavour! They were exquisite.
West Indian shops often have fridge shelves filled with them. That’s when you know you’re in the right place.
Speaking of delightfully sweet drinks contributing to diabetes in black people, it’s Nurishment! Besides the sugar, the cans have all the vitamins you need for the day and it comes in an assortment of flavours – my favourite is strawberry.
I still buy them every now and again but I always check the price. If they’re on offer, they’re about £1 otherwise I don’t pay any more than £1.40, which is the RRP. I don’t usually buy them in West Indian shops either.
Back in the day, there was a train journey that had no barriers at either station. My home station eventually changed that but I always wondered what journeys you could make with the potential to just walk right on through without a ticket (I do not endorse this btw).
Who is Geoff Marshall?
Geoff Marshall is a TfL enthusiast and created a page on his website dedicated to London Underground facts and figures. It’s particularly helpful for disabled people as not all stations have escalators or lifts. Also interesting to see how many stations are so close together in terms of journey time. Leicester Square to Covent Garden, for example, takes less than 40 seconds on average.
I have to say the closest I’ve come to an interest in surfing was watching Laura Crane on Love Island. Actually, I tell a lie – I used to watch Home & Away religiously when I was a kid. Those were the days. About the time I started was when Roger Sharp, known affectionately as Sharpy, started his surfing photography career.
“Growing up, I wasn’t into photography at all. It came to me towards the end of school, when I started playing around with a little waterproof Minolta compact. Then towards the end of university I bought my first SLR for £35 – a Russian battleship of a camera that I found in a junk shop.”
But the catalyst for his wonderful career wasn’t the most pleasant.
Around the same time, in 1994, I took off with some mates to France for a month, but on the second day I broke my collarbone in the surf. I was kinda forced to pick up my camera, instead of sitting on the beach sulking all day.
Sharpy discussed more about his past and some of his finest photographs from the last quarter-century on Mpora. You should definitely give it a read. And in the meantime, check out some of his fantastic photos below.
(All rights reserved by Roger Sharp; images taken from his Instagram account.)
The Day Today and Brass Eye were controversial in their time. But a lot of the depicted surrealism doesn’t seem so strange in 2019. In this pilot, you see Chris Morris without the slicked-back hair he chose for the final version and a middle section involving a round table political discussion. It’s very rough around the edges and some of it doesn’t hit as hard to the comedy bone but there is one funny segment.
A “submarine” was found “at the bottom of the Pacific” and The Day Today had successfully contacted one of the men on the vessel. Of course none of this was true and Morris had actually pranked an American McDonald’s employee who was oblivious. This was standard for Morris who regularly pranked people on the radio and infamously used the technique on Brass Eye. His acts involved celebrities and even a member of parliament who was duped into advocating a crackdown on “cake”, a fake drug created for the show.
The London graphic designer is one to watch for the future.
Social media can be a hellish place when you suffer from anxiety. But I prefer visual therapy in the form of art and that’s what makes Instagram so good (for the most part).
I discovered Karis Pierre aka karpie.jpg via Rhea Ellen and I love her work. According to her Insta bio, she’s studying graphic design at Norwich University of the Arts but originally from/based in London.
My favourite piece is the “Dunk” Nike Store poster. That’d look awesome on sports fan’s wall.
I can’t remember why I started watching PhoneShop but it was a brilliant decision. I’ve not heard a single bad word said about it and I don’t plan on changing that. Why would I need people with wrong opinions in my life anyway? Every character brings something unique, eccentric, and hilarious to the table: Jerwayne and his suave sophistication, occasionally broken by strong weed and his sleeping habits; Ashley, his sidekick and confidant, with his white Jafaican accent hiding god knows what else; Christopher aka “New Man” and his desperation to fit in with everyone, Lance and his terrible management skills in the shop and apparently in the bedroom; and Janine who is so off-kilter and a true personification of non-sequitur.
But of all the guest appearances on the show, Razz Prince is my favourite. Played by Kayvan Novak and better known for his roles as Fonejacker and Waj in Four Lions, Razz is a PhoneShop area manager who initially takes a liking to Christopher before New Man sees him for what he really is. But it’s the ridiculous antics and quotes that make Razz Prince what he is. Of course there’s an element of elitism to his character (his brand is literally called The Elite Selling Crew) but deep down, he’s just like the rest of them.
You can stream his best bits below (which is pretty much everything he’s done on PhoneShop).
This is arguably the best media news I’ve heard all year. If you haven’t heard of Media Diversified, familiarise yourself now by visiting their website. On 19th November, they announced Marcus Daniel as their new editor-in-chief. This means even more to me personally as Marcus is a friend of mine but from a subjective point of view, this is a brilliant acquisition.
Marcus has written numerous essays on LGBT issues and music for Media Diversified, The Queerness, SoSoGay, and IndyVoices. His passion for equality and diversity is abundant and prevalent in everything he does. Samantha Asumadu, founder of Media Diversified, expressed her delight in the appointment saying:
“I have had an eye on him for a few months for a key role in our organisation’s future and have always enjoyed both how he uses his social media presence to highlight important issues such as the Windrush scandal, and how he highlights how racism and LGBTphobia intersect to marginalise LGBT people of colour.”
From myself and everyone at Cultrface, I would like to congratulate Marcus on his new position. I would also like to wish everyone at Media Diversified a prosperous future under his editorship.
You can follow Marcus on his personal Twitter account (I highly recommend you do this): @marcusjdl
It’s a pleasure to have Simon take part in our Black History Month festivities. Besides being a good friend of mine, Simon is also a speech-language therapist and founder of Power In Discussion, an organisation creating positive discussion in the context of mental health and well-being, identity, and experiences faced by Black communities in Britain and Black LGBTQ+ representation.
What is your favourite city in the world?
What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?
Why do you do what you do?
Currently, I’m working on Power In Discussion, a platform which recognises the importance of having conversations both on and offline. I do it because I love communicating and I recognise the value in sharing our stories.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
Her love of visual storytelling has taken her around the world and she recently had her video, He’s Not Like That, featured at the BAFTAs as a finalist. We interviewed her for Black History Month.
What is your favourite city in the world?
To not be biased and say my own, I would say Oslo. I recently went there for a little weekend trip to visit one of my best friends and I wish I could have stayed longer. Such a beautiful city, friendly people and the food is great. Plus the flights are really cheap!
What’s the most unusual item you take everywhere you go?
There’s nothing usual that I take with me, although I’ve weirdly had a few people ask me before why I carry moisturiser with me all the time… I mean who wants ashy skin? Especially when you already have eczema.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I currently do because I’m passionate about film and TV. So I currently have a full-time job as a logger for a production company and we’re working on a series about Formula 1 racing which will be on Netflix. I also do the odd videography/editing freelance job. It’s all to help pay the bills and fund my filmmaking hobby so that eventually I can start producing my own work for film/tv.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I can’t remember and that’s terrible.
Where do you go to relax?
The only place I have to relax is my room really. I came back home last year and my room was still the same way I left it at 18 and so as I’m almost 23 now I decided it needed a makeover to match the woman I am now. So I’ve been slowly turning it into my own relaxing sanctuary where I can just edit and write, or watch crap on YouTube.
69, 280, or 420?
How do you say goodbye in your culture?
Unfortunately, I don’t know Vincentian Creole, but my family have this habit of mostly saying ‘in a bit’.
In a 1979 sketch, he presented “The Complete Guide To Accents of The British Isles”, as Don Shulman, an American professor of “accents and languages”. He travels through Europe and Britain playing numerous accents from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. Everything seems to be going well but then the sketch takes a dangerous turn…
“There was no Peter Sellers […] He was close to panic as himself and came alive only when he was impersonating someone else.” – Bruce Jay Friedman
It’s happened to me before but I’ve refrained from calling the cops on them vendors. This person couldn’t contain his anger. Gloucestershire Constabulary received a call from a person complaining about their incorrect order, much to the police’s chagrin. Officers took to Facebook to issue a warning to would-be pizza complainants:
“If your pizza topping is not correct, please do not ring the police on 999 to report it […] 999 is for emergency calls.”
Naturally, Facebook users ensued with their own clever quips. We still think Donald Trump eating pizza crust first is a bigger crime to cuisine (and his snivelling existence a crime against humanity.)