B L A C K

In Conversation with Juliana Kasumu

 

 

 

Sandra Abode: Hey, Julie.

Juliana Kasumu: Hi, how you doing?

 SA: *laughs*... Sorry.

JK: *laughs*

SA: Yes! Get the laughs out of the way. Ermm... I'm blessed. I'm doing well today.

JK: We’re gonna laugh you know?

SA: I know, I know. I’m blessed.

JK: *laughs*

 SA: I’m blessed. I’m doing well today. Erm… how are you?

JK: I'm actually good. I'm good. Like, I won't lie, I was having an off day. But being in your presence has calmed me. So I appreciate it.

SA: *whispers*... awww

JK: *laughs*

SA: I'm saying a faint ‘awww’ because… awww. Like,yeah, I like our new… I mean, it's a Friday today. But I like how we've started kicking off our beginning of the week with skating and literally just like catching up now that you're back in London… thank God. Only God knows what my life was like, to be honest. 

Because, when you left for the Americas…

JK: *laughs*

SA: ...and, you just left me here. Erm… it's good to have you back, like physically, you know?... I mean - because only so much everything can be done over the phone, you know? And, even if we can't get one another over the phone, it'll be like voice notes or, do you know what I mean…. voice messages here and there. I think for me personally, time was never given to how long we probably didn't communicate before we caught up again, kind of thing. So yeah, it's beautiful to now have you back in London. 

How has it been? 

JK: Nah, genuinely… like, being away was difficult. And, even as you're speaking, it feels like I've been back for so long but it's only been in since like September/October and being away was hard and like, coming back was difficult because it wasn't my plan to come back. But being here, being surrounded by the love of family and friends, by your love… erm, and even reflecting back on how even though we were part, you still continue to inform so much of the work that I did while I was out there...

SA: Mmm..

JK: Erm, so I'm grateful to be back. But I'm also… Yeah, I'm grateful and I'm excited actually to be back more so than I thought I was going to be because so much has happened. I've done so many new things, erm... that I thought, oh, at least I had feared that comeback was gonna be a setback. But actually it's been such like a - I don't know the word is, but it's been a platform for kicking off and trying so many new things. Having amazing conversations, like… being an adult and learning new skills like, quad skating like…

SA: Yeahhh

JK: … at my big age. Like I love it, though. 

SA: Yeahhh

JK: Like I'm falling down, cause I'm making effort, you know? So we ochea!

SA: Yeahhh

JK: I’m grateful.

SA: I love that. I guess this process is kind of like the process of trial and error… 

JK: Yep.

SA: ...which is something that's been coming to me actually a lot this year. Erm… and you speak on, you know, kind of starting new projects or being a part of projects. Erm… and we was fortunate to work last year, December, erm… together on a project. 

Erm… I don't know where I want to go with that. I think I just want to say it was a blessing, do you know what I mean? Just to create, again and also create with like minded people, do you know what I mean?... and people that you just genuinely have a good connection with…

JK: Mmm…

SA: You know? Erm... it was a nice switch up and something for me personally that I know that I definitely want to continue when it comes to like creative work and being selective about you know, who you work with and playing to your strengths and stuff like that. So yeah, thank you for sharing. 

I mean, for those that don't know you…

Both: *laugh*

 

SA: ...do you just want to say exactly where you're coming from. Why you wasn't in London.

JK: Okay, okay, so… so I am an artist, filmmaker, producer, director. 

SA: *horn sound effects*... sorry!

Both: *laugh*

JK: So I went, I went to America, the south of America… New Orleans

SA: *Nigerian accent*... ah! Abroad oh!

JK: to be specific! To do an MFA in Studio Art. 

 

'What Does The Water Taste Like?' at Carroll Gallery by J.Kasumu

SA: Mmm.. Hmm…

JK: Ermm… and so that was two years. But before that, I had kind of like been back and forth. Erm... I don't know why the south has a hold on me. My body, my spirit always ends up there somehow… and so like, before that I had been doing a lot of work in like exhibitions, and residency is over there. And then…. I graduated and like I had - I was just working basically as an artist as a creative, and then the pandemic... happened.

 *laughs*

SA: Why you doing face like that?

JK: The pandemic happened…

SA: Mmm.. Hmm…

JK: … and I lost a lot and just became, I think it was - it came down to finances. It became financially, just unrealistic. 

 SA: Yeah. 

JK: Ermm… and then my mum... like, I think I called my mum one day, and I was like, “Mum, I don't know”... and she's like, *in Nigerian accent*, “Tosin abeg!”... Tosin’s my Yoruba name.

 SA: Mmm..

 JK: So she’s like… *in Nigerian accent* “Tosin, just come home please… like reset”. She basically just said come home, reset…

 SA: Mmm..

JK: Ermm… and so I came back and I will admit, I went into like a deep, deep depression. Because one thing I will say is that I left… but though - it's almost like my memory of people and things were like, where it was about three years prior. So I came back and everyone's life had moved on and so things were just different in a lot of ways and it’s almost like I had to rebuild relationships. But what I was always grateful for, and I'm gonna talk about you now is that like... I feel like, no matter what the distance was, or whatever, however many miles apart we were, our connection just never shifted and never changed. 

SA: Mm.. Hm…

JK: So even the project you're speaking about in December, it was so fun because it was like, “Oh, yeah, remember this!” Like, I remember that you always exist as this like permanent... like, you're my lifetime collaborator.

SA: Yeah, yeah. We spoke about that before actually.

JK: Literally… *laughs*

SA: Yeah, yeah. I love that.

JK: Yeah… and so that was really grounding for me. And that was - I think that was the first time I was like, “Okay, yeah, this was necessary”.

SA: Mm...

JK: And so I'm just… I feel like I'm back in England for the long haul. I love America, I love traveling, I love movement but, being home… there's just something about... there’s like an energy and there’s a vibe that can't be replicated. Erm… and they're just a free flowing nature to of like, when you feel connected to a place in that way or even to people who you feel like are your day ones, erm… there's just a freeness and that energy that can’t… No new friends!... Is what I’m tryna say… *laughs*

… no new friends!

SA: That’s crazy… Yeah. Unless you carry the people that you do life with to the location that you're moving to, yes... it would be very hard to replicate. Erm… unless you're open and you're willing to find like minded people in that same, you know... destination that you end up moving to. 

But all his work, and I feel like all his patience and all his discernment as well to know who you're inviting into your space, because it’s not everybody. Like, some people you think like upon first… you know, meeting or whatever there's this vibe, there's this energy that you know, can make you feel like someone's there for a lifetime, you know? But, I think it's definitely erm…  important to just take your time and really just vet… you know, someone… erm…

JK: Yeah. I hear you.

SA: ...or your first meets. But, I hear that “no new friends”... This whole time has actually just been a shift in like major energy when it comes to family, friends, the relationship you have with yourself. Erm… and it's funny, because, you know, we're gonna go into speaking about colour, and as you was talking about people, I just thought about us as a race…

JK: Mmm…

SA: ...as a black race. Erm, and then you also spoke about depression as well and whenever I hear depression, the first thing that comes to my mind is the image of black like, I just think blackness, I just went darkness. But over the past, like two to three years, I have been changing my mind about this state of depression, and erm… the shadow aspect of life in general. Erm… because both serve, you know?... It’s definitely about your perspective and what you do in that time, and you spoke on coming back and falling into what you would call a deep depression. For me, that state hit me last August, so I kind of fell into that state before you got back, and I was still... to be fair I have been going through it until beginning of this last month actually, March. Erm... which is no surprise because as the turn of the seasons, you know, seasonal affective disorder is a real thing, and as the turn of the seasons, autumn/winter into spring. It's no coincidence that I personally feel kind of more lively and alert and on my feet. But speaking about the dark, erm… speaking about depression as a feeling, it just appears to me as like… darkness....

JK: Hmm…

SA: … you know?

JK: That's so interesting because I guess for me depression is not... it doesn't... it's not the colour black. It's actually the colour white. 

SA: *short burst of laughter*

JK: And it sounds strange, but for me…

SA: That’s mind blowing!...That’s just like -

Both: *laugh*

SA: That’s just like -

JK: For me, when I think about when I go into a low mood, it's actually like a very empty vast bright room that I'm like…

SA: Sorry to interrupt you…

JK: *laughs*

SA: Do you know - or, do you understand why now you need to read Freshwater.. Have you ordered it?

 

 'What Does The Water Taste Like?' at Carroll Gallery by J.Kasumu

JK: I literally got that book yesterday morning. It came in. I ordered it and it came in yesterday. 

SA:Thank god, because…. 

JK: So it's on my desk. 

SA: Good.

JK: I'm gonna read it. I'm going to read it. I need to get through one more book this week. 

SA: Yeah. 

JK: But… yeah, like it literally - for me it's like this… cause I feel like black... I feel like, like if I think about - when I close my eyes, and I think about the color black or I think about a room that is black. I think about how it’s almost like a… *sighs*... it’s going to sound so strange… not that it’s a comfort but it's just like, it's cozy. 

SA: Mmm…

JK: Whereas whereas white… like, the white room that I imagine when I think about like being… it's like it's so wide and so vast. And it's like… this almost, this never ending feeling of just like openness that might be like… er, visibility that, when I go into a low mood, it's almost like I'm trying to avoid that. 

SA: Yeah. 

JK: Um, so yeah, I guess for me… er, I don't think about black in that way or I don't associate black or darkness with depression. At least the language I've heard other people do, so… um, and if it's not, yeah.... if it's not a white room, then it's just like a really, really bright room…

SA: That’s sooo interesting!

JK: I can see myself come cowered in like a fetal position, almost. 

SA: Mmm, hmm. Mmm, hm.

JK: But I feel like when I think about darkness, I don't feel it in that way. 

SA: Mmm…

JK: It’s always been interesting to have conversations, when you ask someone to describe what it feels like…

SA: Mmm…

JK: ...when they go through that mood or moment. And it’s so funny too, because even when I think about... sometimes my mum - so obviously now I'm back home with family and I’ve noticed even more how different like me or my mum or me and my sister are. And so I’ll be chillin 'in a really dark room and she'll come in ah! Like mum be like…

SA: *Nigerian accent*... “Why is there no light!?

JK: … *Nigerian accent* “Is... is everything okay?

Both: *laugh*

JK: She's like, *Nigerian accent* “Is everything okay?”...

SA: Mmm…

JK: … I’m like “Mum. I'm just chilling”...

SA: Mmm…

JK: But it's like… to her it’s like - and to be fair, she still… my mum still likes to sleep with a light on. She’ doesn’t like darkness at all. Ermm… but for me, it's comfort like darkness is comfort, in a strange way for whatever reason.

SA: Mmm...

JK: Yeah.

SA: That triggered a memory for me. For me, it was my mum. She, she's a - I think she's the one that... to be fair, I get all my style…

JK: Mmm… Hm.

SA: ...and ambient settings from her, because in our old house, in the living room we had like an archway, which was like mmm… yeah, if you can just imagine a cove. So in that cove, there was er…. Lighting, so she put like a red bulb in there and we had like shelves. It was just…

JK: That sounds so cool! *laughs*

SA: … a vibe! It was just such a vibe! Do you get what I mean?

And the main lights for the living room were like, white and whatever, but whenever my mum is in the room, she will have… *Nigerian accent*... dat red light and the TV. And I remember I had this childhood friend, yeah… she would always come to my house and she was like, “ Ah! Why is your mum always in darkness, bruv!?”

JK: *laughs*

SA: I was just like, “Dats her innit!”... d’you know what I mean? But, obviously from outside looking in, it will look like there's a problem… kind of thing. And erm… and I was just like, “nah”... even when we go to church, my mum will be wearing her shades, like these low like… slick shades and my friends would be like, “Bruv. Why does your mom always wear shades?” 

… Like you talked about the girl wearing the shades in year 9…

JK: Yeahhh…

SA:“Cause I just feel like I want to wear them”... 

JK: Yeah!

SA: D’you know what I mean? But, my mom's reasoning was that she had at the time been doing late shifts. So obviously, by the time we get to church or that weekend, she'll have red eye. So it's not like she wants to be showing her face, so that's why she'll wear them. So she actually had reason behind them. But you don’t have to give anyone reason. Like, if that's your vibe… if that's the mood that you'd like to create for yourself, then yeah, so be it.

JK: That’s such a vibe though. I want to be that I want to be that person, cause it’s…

 SA: I told you. Rich, aunty, vibes.

JK: *laughs*... rich, aunty, vibes.

SA: I told you. That’s the vibes that you give.

JK: … and I accept it and I receive it and I manifest because…

SA: Mmm. Hm. Mmm. Hm.

JK: I guess - I guess for me it's so interesting even when you think about that and I go straight to - cause you know me, I'm all about my like… anthologies and histories or whatever and I think about just even as a people as African people erm… our like - I even, when I mentioned my mum and how she would come into the room and she would like automatically when she sees the colour black or darkness, right, we go into the spiritual realm now. And then we go into like the, um, the stereotypical kind of like the hatred what you know… I think in the UK, actually, in the UK, the least adopted type of cats are black cats... 

SA: Mmm…

JK: … because everybody has this thing…

SA: associates it with a witch…

JK: yeah, associates it with like, right… with like witchcraft or like evil. 

SA: Mmm. Hm. 

JK: Um, and I guess for me, for me that's just such a… a very much like a colonial mentality as Fela would say maybe…

SA: Mmm. Hm. 

JK: Um, and that like, that comes from the fact that like darkness, right... being this very negative thing. Darkness as a people being a negative thing in comparison to whiteness. 

SA: Mmm. Hm. 

JK: And, some people would like to say that it's not that deep, but it really is, it really is that deep. Um… and I guess for me, when I think about… on that kind of level, then even more so I'm so open to like, blackness as light or black or the colour black as a thing. So even when you asked me that question about what is my favourite colour? And the first thing I said was, I think I said like burnt orange, like mustard yellow.

SA: Wait, wait, wait. Let me pull up the message…

JK: *laughs*

SA: … Let me pull up the message because this brings us right on track… um...

JK: Yeah, cause...

SA: ...as we're discussing colour and asking Juliana, what her favourite colour is?...

JK: *laughs*

SA: … which brought up an interesting conversation... So I wasn't even going to interview her guys..

JK: *laughs*

SA: Let me just be real. I was not going to speak to her. I was just gonna be like, “Ugh! You’re giving me all these colours that everyone else has given me… *Nigerian accent*.... Orange, green…

JK: Can you imagine?

SA: … purple… 

JK: Respect please. Just a little bit.

SA: … I don’t even know

Both: *laugh*

SA:  ... common colours. Erm… I think… I think we had this conversation quite a while ago. I'm trying to look… *scrolls through phone*

Okay, but you brought up those… I think two common colours, say orange and purple. And then you went on to saying… Black. And I was like, Yes. But I think you was like, “black isn't even a colour”...

JK: Yeah. 

SA: What did you - do you remember what you said?

JK: Yeah. I said it was a lifestyle…

SA: You said lifestyle and I said “ENERGY!”...

Both: *laugh*

SA: I said “ENERGY!”

JK: I said, “lifestyle”… cause, yeah…

SA: Yeah. Explain it. 

JK: Okay. Yeah. So I guess for me when I think about colour, or like a favourite colour, I'm...  I am, I am very drawn to bright colours. I am drawn to like, orange, like deep oranges. And like, like um, mustard yellows, those are the two colours, I find myself - if I'm gonna wear a colour, I'm gonna wear those. 

But when I think about the kind of black, I find that I'm often for whatever reason, it's not intentional, but I always find myself drawn to black. 

SA: Mmm.. Hm.

JK: I wear black. I feel like umm… not only is it just a colour that goes with everything, typically. 

SA: Mmm.. Hm.

JK: Um, but it's also a colour that can be styled up and down... at any moment. Um… and also, I just feel like I'm just more receptive to it… and also just - I don't know, if it's linked to the fact that with photography ‘my firstborn child’, my first type of art form…

SA: Mmm.. Hm.

JK: Um, I shoot solely in black and white…

 

Doris by J.Kasumu 

SA: Yep.

JK: Um, traditional type of like process in which like, I develop those - or my medium or my artwork.. and so for me, you just... I don't know, black is always just this thing that just exists as like a… the most the most open and the most vast erm... and it’s also the choice, I think, too. Because even just last week, my dad - so he is… if those of you who know what the celestial church is, he is a shepherd in a celestial church or the equivalent would be like a pastor, I guess?...

SA: Yeah. 

JK: Um, and so that church is very, very interesting and I hope he doesn't hear this either , because he's gonna be like, he's gonna rebuke what about to say, but the church is very interesting, because it's like -

So it's a Christian denomination type church, but it was formulated in Nigeria... 

SA: Mmm.. Hm.

JK: ...with the Yoruba language at its centre…

SA: Mmm.. Hm.

JK: ...and so it's almost like this.. for me, it's like this merge of, like, traditional Ifá religion... 

SA: Mmm.. Hm. 

JK:... with like - that meets like Christianity, and it's like a Yoruba bible…

SA: Mmm..

JK: ...but a lot of the spiritual practices are so like, the parallels between that and em  Ifá or just for me…

SA: … too much?

JK: ...it’s like, right there. 

SA: Yeah

JK: They will deny it though…

SA: Yeah

JK: … because -

SA: I mean, sorry. You said the parallels is it that there... is it that the parallels are really… erm, contrasting? Or they… or they clash?

JK: No. It’s that they are connected.

SA: Oh. They’re connected… ok.

JK: They’re connected.

It’s like… structure - like even when you think Yoruba people you think about the way in which the music activates the way in which like... things like bringing fruits for like harvest and an offering…

SA: Yeah

JK: … and like praying to God in a way that is so.... like you understanding that like… it's like this open spiritual connection…

SA: Mmm..

JK: … and spirituality be at the centre of it in a way that is just such a Yoruba - specific thing…

SA: Mmm..

JK: ...through music as well the way music comes into that. 

SA: Mmm..

JK: And so for me - so with that church anyway… with the celestial church, ermm.. the colours black and red specifically, are so like... you don't wear that church. 

SA: Mm.

JK: And so again, when I think about… again, when my mum or my dad see me in black…

SA: Yeah

JK: ... it's always this thing like, 

*Nigerian accent* “ah! Why are you always… why?”...

SA: Yeah

JK: Mm. But for me, it's like, “can't you see that it's not such a beautiful thing?”... and so I guess when you want to wear it and when I say it's a lifestyle for me specifically… 

SA: Mm.

JK: … is that I feel like all of my life, it's a colour I’ve been drawn to…

SA: Mmm..

JK: … but I've had to like... I’ve had to avoid. And now it's like, “Oh actually, no I enjoy this. So what is that about?” 

SA: Mm.

JK: I should show you a picture actually. I'm gonna send you a picture of me - what I used to look like in college. Like it was…

SA: Can we insert in… we’re gonna insert it into the interview.

JK: *sighs* …. It literally was like…

SA: Thank you in advance.

 *Unfortunately Juliana was unable to find the picture - use your imagination with this one and be nice to her… she was young LOL!*

JK: I wore this like... this screen top…

SA: Mm. Hm. 

JK: … red belt.

SA: Mm. Hm.

JK: … Purple tights. Yellow shoes… *laughs at self* … Red headband. That's how I used to walk around…

SA: Why? 

JK: *still laughing* … I don’t know! 

SA: *joins in laughter* 

JK: I thought I was doing fashion phase, but honestly it's like… you look like a clown

SA: No, but like are they like certain silhouettes happening with your top?... 

JK: *sighs*

SA: … is the skirt like a nice cut?...

JK: I don’t know...

SA: … is it doing maxi or mini for us?.... You were just doing colour? 

JK: I was just doing colours…

SA: Mm-k. It happens. We all went - to be fair and I love it.

JK: I've evolved 

SA: You’ve evolved. Yeah

I think this is - this ties into the two previous interviews that I had. One with Tosin... with just talking about, when we're going through that stage of finding ourselves…

JK: Mmm…

SA: … there's a lot of colours that come into it and then as we get older it becomes more muted so right now she's like... in muted tones she's playing with colour because yes, she has friends that love to be eccentric and stuff but now she's very like,  minimal.

JK: Mmm…

SA: .. With Ola, she spoke about the same thing, with red and black... you know, also coming from the Christian home. She's Yoruba and Igbo, erm... but still has that same feeling towards red and black. 

I personally haven't grown up in a home - I’ve only been asked once like through erm… my step-mum about -  or maybe it was my dad... just asked me why did I wear erm, so much black but my dressing has always been a conversation. I should be wearing more skirts and all these kind of things. Erm... it's been an adjustment to say the least with my… with my dad but with my mum she's been more… open to who I am. She knows I'm very like, yeah creative and I make my own clothes and stuff. 

But, erm… I think the ties that church have or the influence it has in our dressing… erm,  for those of us that are like, religious, it definitely plays a part in how we present ourselves to the outside world. 

Um, but I also feel like how that's beautiful how you've just embodied black not only just as a lifestyle but… I guess yes, as a lifestyle because fashion does come into you know… your lifestyle but you just embodied it regardless of what culture or religion wants to say because it almost becomes a thing where you have to defend yourself now, against like, wearing it or presenting yourself in those colours or that colour. 

Ermm… I think probably that's why I was drawn to you at uni as well because you played with film, and that's a very old school and I've only known my mum to have a point and shoot camera aside from everyone else going digital and stuff you really stayed old school and stuff. 

So how or why aside from it being something that you physically put on your body and wear, were you drawn to photographing in black and white and documenting black bodies as well?

 

 

JK: That’s so interesting. Like I - I feel like when I first started making images…

SA: Mm.

JK: So I - I actually learned in the darkroom… and then went to uni... BCU - whoop!

SA: I’m so done.

JK: *laughs*... and, um…

SA: *laughs*

JK: ...it was like very -  there was a darkroom there that you could use, you could print all of that good stuff. But, everybody was like,it was... because of how fast paced it was, everybody was shooting in digital so I began shooting digital. And I began to like lose… I don't actually have the language for it. But I just knew that I began to lose interest until final year and the final major project and it was like, again, you have the freedom to do whatever on earth you wanted to do... 

SA: What did you do for your final - wait… is that...

JK: … That was…

SA: … the one that Josie was apart of?

JK: That was INRU KIKO.

 

 'What Does The Water Taste Like?' at Carroll Gallery by J.Kasumu

 

SA: Okay, yeah. 

JK: So… so for context! *laughs*

SA: And, you went to the - guys she actually, um... presented this show (INRU KIKO) at - it was The Drum theater right? 

Both: In Birmingham. 

JK: Uh, huh..

SA: Yeah... so, yeah. 

JK: that was my first ever solo show. Um, and so for context for everyone listening. INRU KIKO  what um… meaning, from Yoruba like literally just ‘hair threading’, was about the traditional methods of hair threading before colonisation and what they meant… um, to very specific like families and Yoruba communities in Nigeria or present day Nigeria. Um, and I was really just, I guess making social commentary on the ways in which, like hair today can be understood as like - either a rebellious form of like presentation, or be a way to like kind of conform to like more Europeans standards of beauty. 

So... that was, that was shot on film, black and white darkroom…

SA: Mm.

JK: … and that was the first time I was like, “Oh, I actually enjoy this”.

Can I swear? … by the way, like… *laughs*

SA: *Nigerian accent* Why do you need to swear?

JK: Because I was about to say.... Anyway…

SA: No… say… be free.

JK:  Okay. Be free... okay.

SA: Let me just hear this one.

JK: Fine. So I was gonna say that I really enjoyed that shit

SA: Mm. Hm.

JK: I really enjoyed… *laughs*... that shit.

SA: You see why I say your bougie…

JK: *laughs*

SA: … cause you - if it was anyone else, they would have just said it - do you get?. 

JK: You gotta confirm for the audience…

SA: You had to beg pardon to say shit!...

JK: *laughs*

SA: I'm so done.

JK: … I’m done!

SA: Ok, carry on.

JK: Famm… and so, yeah, that was the first time…

SA: Mm. Hm.

JK: … and it's so funny you asked me that question about, you know... the intentionality between and behind shooting black people because honestly…

SA: Mm.

JK: … I wasn't doing that being conscious of it. And the first time I was conscious of it was when, a few years after uni, there was this woman who I met randomly, who like owned this magazine. 

Um, and she was like, “Hey, love your work. Let's like, meet up”... black woman, I loved - I remember loving her hair. She had the most beautiful locks, like all the way down to like the back of her like knees, it was amazing. So we sat down, and she was like, “You know, Juliana, I love your work. But... you just have too many black people in your portfolio and if you want to make this life, if you want to be somebody in this life… you - 

SA: *starts singing ‘Pay Attention’ chorus from Sister Act 2*

JK: Thank you! Um, ...“if you really want to be somebody, you have to shoot more white people”.

SA: *Yoruba*... omo! - “guy!”

… is this what, this - this lady said?

JK: And! I guess at that time, I was like, “What are you talking about?” But now when I look back on that moment, I see that, for her she was older she's been in the game for God knows how many years. And so I guess that's what the industry or the world, had done to her…. that made her feel that she literally had to, like conform into that, in that way. Whereas for me, it was like “Nah, man. Like this is what's around me”. 

SA: Yeah.

JK: I surround myself with these like beautiful people…

SA: It’s your everyday..

JK: This is my.... this is - I am the centre. 

SA: Mmmmmm..

JK: Shout out to Tony Morrison. But this is my centre. Um, and why should I like, adapt or conform because of what? And so I think God actually that's that's all to God because I feel like I've literally been able to maintain an entire career…

SA: Mmm…

JK: ...shooting what I want to shoot. I -

SA: Listen! Since I met you…

JK: *laughs*

SA: … which is really…

JK: Yeah.

SA: ...which is kudos to you, honestly. Honest to God, because I believe that you either create your path and set your path in this life or you follow, you know…

 Sandra Abode by J.Kasumu

JK: Mmm..hm..

SA: … the road that's already been traveled kind of thing. Um, and since I met you at Ravensbourne, and we showed our final major projects… um, it was, I believe a black female and a male…

JK: Yep. Uh, huh.

SA: ...that you shot for your final major project. 

JK: Yep.

SA: Um, and I remember I think Andrea was our tutor. Um, I think she had something to say. Like I just think people had things to say because it wasn't…

JK: Mmm..

SA: ...probably as edited or as clean. Personally for me observing that work and listening to the background noise, there weren't that many positive remarks…

JK: Mmm..

SA: ...about the stance you was taking. I don't know what you received, kind of thing. But I know that Ravensbourne environment was very catty when it, when it could be d’you know what I mean?

Other times when there was support you would find it personally for me and your little circles of people…

JK: Mmm..Hm.

SA: The rest of it fucking all. D’you know what I mean? Because, I really feel like I got to feel the cattiness of like being in fashion school. D’you know what I mean?

JK: Yep.Yep.

SA: D’you get?

JK: No, I'm…

SA: Tutors having their favourites…

JK: Omo!... *laughs*

SA: … you know. Ermm.. you’re kind of being pushed to the sidelines and having to be really adventurous with exploring the briefs that we were getting... and coming back every week, you know, presenting to people and saying boom, “This is my interpretation. This is what I took from it…” and being able to just have one/two people be attentive to you during your presentation or no one at all, you know? 

And it really taught you - and I'm really just like, erm... I guess reflecting and analysing it now, but not to give a shit about what people thought. And so just to go back to point, that was the first time that I've seen you introduce yourself as a photographer, or as a creative that has black people at the forefront of your work and till date you have carried, it on… you know, and kudos to you.

JK: That's literally it. And, it's so interesting even hearing you say that because I do not... because even when I remember Ravensbourne, I remember like, what, it was Ravensbourne it was Birmingham City, BCU. It was New Orle - um, Tulane University,  a university I went to in New Orleans. 

And, there has not been any experience of academia I've have ever been in, where like, I come and I bring what I bring to the space. And yeah, we can chat about the form and the presentation but when it comes to the content. That's me.
That's me going to the library, doing my own research, that's me having to speak to my peers and my friends, to get advice about what is happening, because they don't have the range to handle what is… and that's just fact. They don't have the range to handle what that is. So actually, when I think about academia, and us as like black people being in any type of academic institution…

 

SA: Yeah…

JK: It’s violence! 

SA: Yeah…

JK: And, I'm going to use that word. 

SA: Mmm..

JK: Because it's, it's like... it's really, sometimes, like, I remember being in New Orleans, and like being in a space and I will say that the black people of New Orleans carried me…

SA: Mmm..

JK: … they really were like, the backbone to me going through…

SA: Mmm..

JK: … because there weren't many nights where I would call my mum and be like, “Mum, this place was not built for me”...

SA: Mmm..

JK: And she'll be like “Tosin”... like, “You’re literally out there to get your degree…

SA: Mmm..

JK:  ...get that  and come back”.

SA:  Mmm..

JK: Because that was like -  it was a predominately white institution, like all the art tutors, and all the art professors were white, like I was the only one in that space making the work that I was making…

SA:  Mmm..

JK: ...about my black centre…

SA:  Mmm..

JK: ...my black people, my people. And they didn't understand. They would talk to me about like, “Okay, how is it going to look?”, but when it came to the actual content, they didn't know what to do. So I was left to my own devices.

SA:  Mmm..

JK: And so I always find it so interesting, like when I think about my memories, and why I continue to choose to participate in that. Um, but I guess that's kind of like where you become and you get held. Because I won't lie and say that, the reason why I've been able to create the work I create is because of that access, like there aren't many dark rooms are open and available that don't cost so much. And so it was like being a part of an institution that had the facilities...

SA: Yeah.

JK: … it becomes easier to make the work. And so it's almost like a - Is it a paradox? Is that the word I'm looking for?... Where you get yourself in a situation where it's like, this - ‘it’s harmful to be in this institution. But I needed it to make the work’. And so then how do I now find a happy medium where like, my mental well being, isn't being like jeopardised....

SA:  Mmm..

JK: ...because of that.

SA: I mean, I just see you doing the necessary. 

JK: Yeah.

SA: And I think you as an individual treading that path, it’s on you to kind of like, strap up and protect yourself…

JK: Right!

SA: ...as you go along that way and know what your resources are…

JK: Right!

SA: … and what tools you need to ensure that you have... essentially as a safe journey, and you come out with what you intended.

JK:Right.

SA: You know? So definitely being very intentional, but just to round up. I guess my last question to you would be… erm, the colour black…

JK: Mmm..

SA: … how does it affect your life?

JK:Mm. Mm. Mm.. Oh, God.
Um, you know, honestly, before this moment, I didn't really think too... I didn't really think too much about it, because again, it just feels like this very natural thing that I'm just naturally drawn to. 

 

SA: Mm..

JK: But I would say that… like even earlier, you made - I don’t remember but you made this comment about, like, kind of growing up and always having to like - people asking questions about your mum and like you always having to be responsive in that way. 

SA: Mm..Hm.

JK: And I will admit that like growing up… um, I was very self conscious about my body. 

SA: Mm..Hm.

JK: And so I was always aware that like… erm, my body was a type that like… was always observed.

SA: Yeah.

JK: Um, and so I would actually - I actually wore black a lot at first to try to…

SA: Disguise yourself.

JK: … make myself smaller. 

 

SA: Yep.

JK: Um, and yet now I look on it as like a feeling or like a vibe or like an energy of like, oh, this is like... almost acceptance or presentation of like how it is.

And black, the colour black can create some very beautiful silhouettes.

SA:  Mmm…

JK: So I love that a lot…

SA:  Mmm…

JK: Um, and so I feel like there is no other colour that does that. At least when I think about dressing, wise. 

SA: Mmm. Hm.

JK: Um… but I think about environment and I think about… again like you're in the space or in a world that tells you all the time that the the brighter the lighter is - we can talk about that on many levels… 

SA: Yep.

JK: … is the most acceptable, the most appreciated or the most attractive. When I see something - like you remember that building close to North Greenwich?

SA:  Hm.. which one?

JK: Where we were skating and we were walking on the path and we were like…

SA:  Oh yeah.. We saw the black building and we were like “We have to come back here”...

JK: Yeah. It's just so like…

SA:  It's attractive.

JK: The mystery of it all.

SA:  Yeahhh.. Enigma, yeah.

JK:Right.

SA: Definitely

JK: Um, and so I'm always… I am drawn to it in that way, because I feel like it creates, I guess the word mystery comes to mind. 

SA: Mm..Hm.

JK: Umm… it's just an attrac - it’s just attractive. In building form and like photographic form…

SA: Mm..Hm.

JK: … in physicality, just an attractive colour. And so that's what I guess in conclusion draws me to it. When I think about it anyway.

*laughs*

SA: Calm.

Thank you for sharing today. 

JK: Of course.

SA: Um, I really do appreciate you!

JK: I appreciate you!

SA: And I'm glad that you've kicked off this… um, I guess it’s a new chapter and a new journey for me… um, this form of conversation. So thank you.

JK: I'm honoured to be your first.

SA: Love to you always. And also thank you to Gentleman's Row Music… erm, Group (GRMG)  for hosting us today… erm, and thank you all for listening. This has been my conversation with Juliana Kasumu, talking about the colour black.

JK: Whoop! Whoop!

 

_________________________
The first season is a wrap! Thank you all for taking out time to read and tune into our conversations about colour. To those who have shared thoughts and expressed how or they have had an impact, I appreciate you.
The conversation continues... in the comment section below, in passing, over social media etc.
It will definitely be continuing through The Creative Journal. Peep your inbox for updates!
Chao!
Love, Sandra x  

 

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