Artists and photographers will use the UK’s streets to explore notions of joy with curation by Ronan Mckenzie
The street exhibition will showcase the works of artists such as Christina Ebenezer, Theo Gould, and Justin Akomiah in various cities across the country.
- Dalia Al-Dujaili
- 25 October 2021
Stretching beyond Black history month, Ronan Mckenzie has invited Black photographers to explore what the notion of “joy” means to them. The founder of Home has collaborated with the BuildHollywood family for Your Space Or Mine, a project which aims to give emerging artists and creatives a platform on the street.
Featuring on billboards across the country, UK based artists will showcase their works centring on the theme of “joy,” starting in London. The project will subsequently travel around the country, visiting the cities of Bristol in November, Birmingham in December and Sheffield in January.
Christina Ebenezer explains to us that her image was “photographed in Nigeria for an editorial for 10 Men Magazine. It represented joy for me as it was my first journey back to the country I was born in. This image represents fortitude and tenacity.” The photographer expresses how joy is important to her because she feels “we get caught up in our careers and responsibilities that we find it difficult to disconnect. It’s paramount to create more space for the things that bring us happiness, taking the time to discover different aspects of ourselves as well as bringing joy to those around us.”
Theo Gould’s contribution “to this wonderful public exhibition,” he tells us, “is a photo of my friend Soya, which is one of the main images in my project entitled Mixed that documents people of mixed heritage.” Soya, Gould continues, is a Black woman with roots from the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Sudan and Egypt. “She spent her early adolescence in Mauritania where she experienced shocking misogyny and even marriage proposals from grown men at the age of 12. She has now returned to Portugal, the country of her birth, and has recently finished her degree in International Affairs and has aspirations of working for the UN and the World Bank. This photo depicts more than a simple smile or a laugh, I see it as a journey on the way to contentment.”
Joy, says Gould, is by far his biggest and most powerful motivator. “I think as a society we often find it difficult to find joy in the monotony of the everyday. Many of us can attest to being ground down by work, life pressures, even the perceived injustice in the world. I think finding joy both within ourselves and the places and spaces around us can be a type of coping mechanism that helps us translate negativity into something positive.”
Justin Akomiah’s image of a local horse rider was captured on a Labadi beach that is known for “great parties and amazing vibes.” For Akomiah, the concept of joy allows us to escape dark spaces and live to our full potential in today’s world, which he feels is full of fear and injustice. The image of the horse rider is part of an ongoing series entitled The Home Coming where Akomiah visited his native country Ghana, “capturing the beauty of locals, tribes, creatives and extended family members.”
“My work represents the imagery I grew on,” the photographer expands, “of beautiful Ghanaians living their life freely with no worries. The western world has fed imagery of poverty, war and famine which has distorted the outlook of Africa. This wasn’t the case for me growing up as I was exposed to rich photography and beauty through family photo albums and journals.”
The exhibition, featuring other artists such as Olivia Twist, Naomi Williams, Sandra Daniel, Sola Olulode, and Rashidi Noah, had a custom type and design from Studio Nari, which designed the campaign to be “standout and uplifting, feeling joyous yet bold down to the way the type and colours interact with the artworks,” explains Mckenzie. She says that “Celebrating Joy is about bringing artwork to public spaces that evoke a sense of lightness and happiness.” This was an opportunity for her to uplift and share “an inner feeling of peace and warmth at a time when the air gets colder and the days are shorter.” She tells us that for her, it was an opportunity to add something to the streets that millions of people pass by every day, and she wanted the showcase’s message to be something “simple that shares some warmth and positivity.” She explains that her role in the project is facilitatory, “inviting the artists to respond to the theme Celebrating Joy in the way they wanted.”
Theo Gould, courtesy of BuildHollywood.
About the Author
Dalia joined It’s Nice That as a news writer in July 2021 after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh. She's written for various indie publications such as Azeema and Notion, and ran her own magazine and newsletter platforming marginalised creativity.