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The fourth segment of Formations, our year-long programme delivered in partnership with Nottingham Trent University’s Postcolonial Studies Centre, includes events in March and April under the thematic banner – Formation: DNA. The title ‘DNA’ signals identity, including scientific cataloguing practices, and medical inequalities in postcolonial contexts. Global medical history is replete with controversies over unequal medical practices, and currently, coronavirus death and illness adversely affects non-white and non-wealthy populations. Join us for conversations and workshops about identity, care, inequality, disease, and vaccination.

Conversation: Colonialism, Contagion and the Race to Vaccinate

Thursday 18 March 2021, 5 pm – 6 pm

In this conversation event, Sophie Fuggle (NTU) talks to Aro Velmet (University of Southern California) about the impact and meaning of disease and vaccination in the French colonies of the early twentieth century.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, bacteriologists working French colonies reimagined both the epidemiology and treatment of colonial tuberculosis. What once was seen as an ancient disease now became a European import. And treatment, which in the metropole was oriented around social hygienist practices, such as education, aeration of housing, handwashing, dispensaries and sanatoria visits, became in the colonies focused on one magic bullet: The BCG vaccine, first developed by the Pasteur Institute in 1924. This reimagining of the French “disease of civilization” had profound political consequences for colonial rule – mobilising colonial administrators to rethink their policies and anti-colonial activists from West Africa and Indochina to push for reform and call into question the fundamental tenets of the French “civilising mission”. This talk explores how bacteriological science shaped politics in a globally interconnected empire – from the hospitals of Saigon to colonial exhibitions and anti-colonial protests in 1930s Paris.

Click here to watch via our Youtube

Hero’s Journey Creative Writing Workshop with Eve Makis and Anthony Cropper 

Wednesday 31 March 2021, 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm & Wednesday 21 April 2021, 6.30 pm – 8.30 pm

Hero’s Journey Creative Writing Workshop (with free bespoke writing book) with Postcolonial Studies Centre writer-in-residence Eve Makis and scriptwriter Anthony Cropper.

The Hero’s Journey is a storytelling template developed by the academic Joseph Campbell and influenced by myths and legends. Taking inspiration from heroes in film, the environmental activist Erin Brockovich and Ron Stallworth in BlacKkKlansman, we’ll take a look at how it’s pinned together and how you can use the model to structure your own creative works. We’ll show you how to use your own life experiences to inform your work and make your characters as real and complex as you are.

All participants will receive a free copy of Odyssey – Finding Your Way Through Writing. ‘A roadmap for writing great stories – using your life as inspiration.’

All levels welcome. All participants will have the chance to get their work edited and included on a spoken word album, bringing their written work to life.

Conversation: Behind the Line – KARVAN meets Kwanzaa Collective UK to talk about CARE

Wednesday 28 April 2021, 5 pm – 6 pm

Who is caring for the carers?

The ONS have reported that over 60% of COVID-related deaths on the frontline have come from ethnic minority backgrounds, yet ethnic minorities only make up about 17% of the NHS – with Black people being only 6.1% of that. This disproportion generates a lot of questions that desperately need answers.

Working closely with five Black frontline workers and NHS staff, Kwanzaa Collective UK explored the question: “How do you do a job that involves caring for others, when you are working within a system that doesn’t care about you?”

They wanted to hear what Black frontline workers have experienced during the pandemic and over the course of their career, and to answer the question: “Who is caring for our carers?”

Using the words of the frontline workers and stories from several personal interviews, they compiled spoken word poetry, personalised ‘care packages’ for them, and captured a series of intimate, anonymised portraits.

Behind the line was funded as part of a B-arts (North Staffordshire) CARE R&D. The conversation is hosted by KARVAN: ‘together we travel’ of

Click here to watch via our Youtube

The inaugural year of our Formations programme, led by the Postcolonial Studies Centre (directed by Jenni Ramone and Nicole Thiara) in collaboration with Bonington Gallery, will close at the end of September 2021 with the segment Formation: Re-viewing. This final segment will be an opportunity to look back over the programme of 30 events including 15 videos now archived on our YouTube channel.

Thank you to everyone who has attended and supported our events, and a huge thanks to all of the participants and contributors to the programme. Having not done an online events programme before, we were excited to take advantage of the opportunity that online programming brings with hosting such a wide range of practitioners, knowledge and experience, and continue global conversations that were established and furthered in 2020 as a result of George Floyd’s murder, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Decolonisation agenda and COVID-19.

This blog post by no means covers all aspects of the programme, but will offer a flavour and starting point for the range of topics that were explored.

Honey Williams, Snakey Friends II (Banned From Britain), 2020.

Our programme began in October 2020 with the launch of Honey Williams‘ specially commissioned work Snakey Friends II (Banned from Britain), 2020. This work, with its anti-structural racism message, acted as an emblem for the Formations programme, and was on display outside the gallery for the whole year. We are really pleased that our host institution Nottingham Trent University acquired this work as part of its Art Collection, securing the long-term care and display of this work. Honey’s piece will stay on show outside the gallery for another year at least, before it is sited elsewhere, so please take a look when you next visit the gallery. Honey’s commission was adjoined by a Q&A, where she expands upon what constitutes and informs her practice and thinking.

Formation: History

Our very first Formations event, as part of Formation: History was the book launch of Distinguished Professor Sharon Monteith’s book SNCC’s Stories: The African American Freedom Movement in the Civil Rights South (University of Georgia Press, October 2020). This included a Q+A with Poet, Director of Nottingham Black Archive and NTU doctoral researcher Panya Banjoko. It was great to work with Panya again after her Bonington Vitrines presentation in November 2019.

Formation: Land

November & December’s segment was entitled Formation: Land, which considered dispossession, migration, and ways the human and land interact. This segment saw the first of several writing workshops led by the PSC’s writer in residence Eve Makis. This workshop encouraged participants to learn how to evoke a landscape using your senses, taking inspiration from the works of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Elif Shafak. The workshops with Eve remained very popular throughout the year.

In December we were extremely pleased to have supported the student led conference Longing to Belong, which raised questions surrounding our relationship with the term ‘belonging’. It focused on writers from the diaspora, asserting that their relationship with belonging is a unique and under-represented experience. The guest speakers included Eve Makis, Panya Banjoko and Helen Cousins.

Formation: Memorials

The new year began with Formation: Memorials, extending many of the conversations and dialogues around public history and memorialisation prompted by such recent moments as the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol.

We were pleased to have hosted a discussion between Dr Jessica Moody and Professor Stephen Small, chaired by NTU’s Dr Jenny Woodley, with Purnachandra Naik. This lively event explored how the UK and USA’s histories are inextricably bound up with enslavement and yet, both countries have failed to fully recognise or interrogate these pasts.

Formation: DNA

Prompted by the shared circumstance of the pandemic, but its disproportionate impact upon people of colour, the next segment Formation: DNA explored related topics such as identity, care, inequality, disease and vaccination.

In April we hosted a conversation between KARVAN and Kwanzaa Collective UK, who have been working closely with five Black frontline workers to ask the question “How do you do a job that involves caring for others, when you are working within a system that doesn’t care about you?“.

With the ONS reporting that over 60% of COVID-related deaths on the frontline have come from ethnic minority backgrounds, yet ethnic minorities only make up about 17% of the NHS – with Black people being only 6.1% of that, this disproportion generates a lot of questions that desperately need answers.

Formation: Milk

Our May/June segment was Formation: Milk, looking at global practices and representations of breastfeeding in art and literature. In acknowledgment of Bonington Gallery’s own position, one of the events we hosted explored representations of breastfeeding in art history. This event featured Rebecca Randle, Learning and Engagement Coordinator, and Helen Cobby, Assistant Curator, both from The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham who spoke to PSC’s Jenni Ramone about text and interpretation used within gallery and museum contexts, and the opportunity to utilise labels, panels and leaflets to better connect with audiences and elicit emotion.

Patterns of Struggle and Solidarity

In June we hosted the PSC’s online conference Patterns of Struggle and Solidarity, exploring the practice and study of cultural activism from disciplines across postcolonial studies. Across a collection of presentations, conversations, workshops, screenings and performances, questions were posed such as How do academics fit into the field of cultural activism? How do academics and activists conceptualise patterns of struggle and solidarity? What role does postcolonial research play in supporting and amplifying the voices and work of cultural activists, in particular in the fields of literature, art, film, craft and performance art? and How do cultural activists and performers engage with postcolonial studies? A performance highlight from the conference was by Dalit rapper Sumit Samos.

Formation: Lace

A material and subject very close to Nottingham was explored in the sixth segment of Formations, Formation: Lace – The global history of lace and its use in colonial contexts. This segment featured important research and knowledge that is related to the history of Lace, as well as working with practitioners local to Nottingham who continue a tradition of hand embroidery and craft as a form of community exercise.

We were delighted to work with Nottingham based artist Rita Kappia, furthering her series of Empowerment Doll workshops and projects. Firstly we hosted a Zoom workshop for 20 participants who were situated across the globe. The group followed Rita’s instructions to make themselves an Empowerment Doll. The workshop proved emotional at times, and showed the therapeutic potential of making a doll in the company of others, and exploring personal themes of identity and self-care.

Our second engagement with Rita was a specially filmed YouTube instructional video (shot by Reece Straw) that was accompanied by 80 free kits that allowed people around the world to make a doll following Rita on the screen. The free kits went very quickly, and pictures of dolls have been sent to us over the past few weeks.

As reflected by this post, the final segment Formation: Re-viewing will be an opportunity to look back over all of the topics and content gathered this year, so please explore yourselves. You can view all of the Formation talks on our YouTube playlist.

We are really pleased to be continuing Formations for a second year, so please check back to our website and follow our social channels for updates over the coming weeks.