“As I am British myself, I am especially interested in the narratives and lives of other British artists, and to be honest, I have never been to a show that solely showcased black British female photographers, and I think one should exist, so I created it,” states London-based photographer Ronan McKenzie.
Titled I’m Home, Ronan’s latest venture opens on 26 October at Blank100 and explores the concepts of home and family through her own works, as well as the work of Rhea Dillon, Liz Johnson-Artur and Joy Gregory.
The idea to host an exhibition first presented itself to Ronan during the summer of 2017. Since her 2015 show A Black Body, Ronan’s work had largely lived online and in the pages of publications – including her own, Hard Ears. “I began to think about other times when I had seen the work of other black British female photographers, which unsurprisingly wasn’t very often,” Ronan adds.
After visiting Tate’s Soul of a Nation and South London Gallery’s The Place Is Here exhibitions, where she was able to see the work of black artists Ronan, “still felt a huge lack of representation of the black experience, and more specifically, the black British female experience.” By December, she decided to curate a show which challenged this notion, but which also “encouraged people to sit down, enjoy, and return to the space as a place that they could both give and take something from, a place that felt somewhere like home”.
For the photographer, “Home is a concept that interests me because it’s so much more than the house I live in or the country I live in,” she explains of how the exhibition’s theme came to be. Having grown up here, Ronan tells It’s Nice That how “sometimes I don’t necessarily feel like I’m at home in Britain”. Both her parents are Caribbean but visits there never felt like home either. “I was interested in exploring what home means to other artists that express themselves through similar media to myself,” she continues.
With Ronan’s photographs being exhibited alongside Rhea, Liz and Joy’s, each artist’s identity as black, British and female is explored through this theme. Rather than using this identity as a unifying factor, I’m Home will provide a space for this identity to flourish in myriad ways. “Being black, female and British are elements that don’t mean that any of us will have something in common, or will have at all similar experiences – especially being born in completely different times and locations,” Ronan outlines, “so I wanted to use this thread to explore these differences in relation to how we respond to home and family.”
In order to embody this concept to the full, I’m Home includes a purpose-built space designed by Sandra Falase, assisted by Rochelle White. It’s a space that will encourage visitors to stay a while; only furthered by the programme of events taking place over its nine days. With a library of books written by black women curated by Rianna Jade Parker, I’m Home also includes a supper club by OOM with Belinda Zhawi and William Stowe, a drawing and photography workshop with Joy Miessi and Bernice Mulenga and life drawing by Our Naked Truths. There will also be a supper club by Pops Kitchen, co-hosted by Black In The Day, show and tell with Nadine Ijewere, an introduction to tarot with Suhaiyla Shakuwra and an evening of film with Eloise King.
A free to visit exhibition, some events will require a £5 booking fee, however, upon attendance visitors can choose to have that fee refunded or donated to local charity, Hackney Quest, who support young people in and around the Hackney. “I’m from Walthamstow, my dad grew up in and mum lived in Hackney for many years which is currently where I live,” Ronan concludes, “It is super important to me that I support the local community that I live in.”
To secure your place at one of I’m Home’s events, sign up here.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.