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The fifth segment of Formations, our year-long programme delivered in partnership with Nottingham Trent University’s (NTU) Postcolonial Studies Centre, includes events in May under the thematic banner – Formation: Milk.

In this segment, we consider the representations and meanings of breastfeeding and the breastfeeding body, to consider how this highly emotive topic is encountered in writing and art, and in public spaces. Join us for conversations and workshops about global representations of breastfeeding in art, literature, and research, from personal stories to public encounters with art.

Conversation: Creative, Academic, and Personal Responses to Breastfeeding Research

Thursday 6 May, 7 pm – 8 pm

Breastfeeding is central to the human experience. It is also a highly emotive topic, debated in public and researched from clinical perspectives, yet in art and literature the topic remains under-emphasised, particularly as a symbolic or representational image. This conversation asks whether artists and writers tell different or similar stories about breastfeeding; engage different or similar audiences; and whether their works might have different or similar impacts on individuals, families, communities, scholarly debates, and frameworks. It will engage with breastfeeding in creative, academic, and personal ways through a discussion with writer and academic Dionne Irving Bremyer (University of West Georgia, ‘My Black Breast Friend’, 2017); academic Ann Marie Short (Saint Mary’s College, Illinois, Breastfeeding and Culture, 2018), and visual artist Lynn Lu (Adagio 2013; On Mother’s Milk And Kisses Fed 2013). Anyone is welcome to attend.

Click here to watch via our Youtube

Creative Writing Workshop: Writing the Breastfeeding Body

Monday 17 May, 6.30 pm – 8 pm

Breastfeeding is traditionally associated with the female body and the body of the mother. Breastfeeding provides nourishment and protection. In addition, feminists have explored how the act of breastfeeding stimulates pleasure, pain and desire but little is known of breastfeeding as an act of resistance, both within and beyond biology. We want to hear about your breastfeeding experiences: the joys, struggles and feelings of ambivalence, your family stories, experiences unique to your gender identity, your culture, heritage or personal circumstances. Come and share your stories and hear others’ that might surprise you, about breastfeeding as resistant practice and breastfeeding beyond the conventional. We welcome all stories, across diverse communities, marginalised experiences and across different generations. We hope you can join us.

The workshop will be co-hosted by NTU’s Postcolonial Studies Centre writer-in-residence Eve Makis and Maud Lannen. All levels welcome.

All participants will get the chance of having their work edited and included on a spoken word album bringing their written work to life.

Conversation: Representations of Breastfeeding and the Gallery

Thursday 3 June, 7 – 8pm

In this conversation event, Rebecca Randle, Learning and Engagement Coordinator, and Helen Cobby, Assistant Curator, both from The Barber Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Birmingham, talk to Jenni Ramone about gallery text, the labels or other information which accompanies exhibited artwork, and about how galleries use gallery text and other methods to enhance public engagement with art, to support the generating of ideas, and to elicit emotion. The event will include discussion of contemporary and historical works of art which represent breastfeeding. Following the event, participants will be invited to write their own ‘gallery text’ for one of the works of art discussed, and selected texts will be published on Bonington Gallery’s Formations website. Anyone is welcome to attend.

Click here to watch via our YouTube

Film screening and Interview – Su Ansell’s Breast’work (2016)

Friday 25 June, 5.00 pm- 6.30 pm

Lecturer in Media Production at Nottingham Trent University, Su Ansell, made the film Breast’work as a single screen video(wall) installation Moving Image Artist and Senior. This work, made in collaboration with women from the East Midlands, aims to challenge the depiction of the female body in art and media.

In this event, the artist and filmmaker talks to Jenni Ramone about the film, the making process, and the public response to the film’s first installations at galleries and conferences across Europe and the US. Ticketed attendees will also receive a link and password to watch the film which will be available until Monday 28 June.

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.