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Ronan Mckenzie's 'Home' Celebrates Black Women In Latest Exhibitions


Photo: Home By Ronan Mckenzie


Photographer and curator Ronan Mckenzie has launched two new exhibitions, AIN'T I SOFT and The Self Portrait – set to run alongside each other at the creative space Home until 27th June. These exhibitions can be viewed for free both online and in-person at the North London art space.


Ain’t I Soft

Photo: Home By Ronan Mckenzie


Created in collaboration with Home, AIN'T I SOFT is a series by platform object to subject, set on decolonising identity and reformulating the existing notions of Black women. Each photo depicts Black mothers, all submitted by Black women and surrounding the theme of “softness”.


Removing them both literally and figuratively from their frames, Mckenzie’s exhibition seeks to free Black women from the labels and restraints that society places on them. As the ‘Strong Black Woman’ archetype is often regarded as a positive feat, its more subconscious, harmful effects can easily go unnoticed. Researchers, including Seanna Leath from the University of Virginia, have found this aspirational standard to be highly detrimental to the mental, emotional, and physical health of Black women.


In feeling the pressure to uphold an image of strength and resilience, many Black women feel no choice but to suppress their emotions and traumas. At the same time, any negative effects of the experiences they face are downplayed by others, including healthcare professionals – as they are believed to be less affected than those of other races. In turn, a significant number of Black women are not given the space or tools to healthily cope when faced with adversity; which studies find often includes racial disparity and discrimination. Furthermore, attaching such limiting stereotypes to Black women ignores their multi-dimensionality – making trying to live up to this ideal even more of a burden.


In AIN'T I SOFT, however, Black women are presented as heterogeneous – they are given the freedom to be vulnerable, open, and most importantly: soft. The images from the project are displayed on chiffon fabric, chosen to signify rebirth. The texture itself holds a myriad of meanings, as told by Home and object to subject: “The lightweight fabric on which the images are printed is the paradox of black women not being what the world expects of them. The transparency of the chiffon represents the constant awareness that black people have about their bodies – through surveillance of others and internal.”



View online here


The Self Portrait

Photo: Home By Ronan Mckenzie


In The Self Portrait, Home collaborates with WePresent to bring forth an exhibition honouring Black women photographers. Rather than their everyday task of capturing other subjects, thirteen chosen photographers were instructed to present photographs of themselves.


Home’s exhibition takes interest in the influence of Black women in photography across generations. It explores the creative processes they undertake as storytellers, highlighting their personal perspectives and experiences. The tranquil ambience provided by both the images and by Home as an art space reflects the reflection and introspection that takes place during creation.


The work exhibited by each photographer varies, with each woman interpreting the prompt in their own ways. This observation alone challenges the homogeneous categorisations often imposed on Black women, both historically and in the present day. Like AIN'T I SOFT, The Self Portrait rejects society’s assumptions and expectations of Black women, instead “placing our representation back in our hands”. The project creates a space for Black women to be whoever they want to be, and to define themselves however they please.


The Self Portrait features the work of several talented photographers, all at different stages in their careers. The lineup includes Denisha Anderson, Jennie Baptiste, Tino Chiwariro, Christina Ebenezer, Joy Gregory, Adama Jalloh, Olivia Lifungula, Ronan Mckenzie, Christina Nwabugo, Lucie Rox, Amaal Said, Ejatu Shaw, and Tori Taiwo.



“The show is an acknowledgement of the value of archiving the photographic history of Black photographers in the UK while simultaneously making visible and remembering the people who were at the forefront (or behind the scenes) of that history.”


View online and book tickets here

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