Gloucester artists celebrate the city's black communities – BBC News

When was the first time you saw a person of a different ethnicity? What would the oldest person in your family say in answer to this question? Is your answer the same? Is it the same as your next door neighbour?
These are the questions asked by a new exhibition of diversity that has been inspired by the "godfather of black British photography" Vanley Burke.
His work is regarded as the greatest photographic record of African Caribbean people in post-war Britain and over the last few months he has been mentoring black artists in Gloucester.
Rider Shafique is a lyricist, poet, MC and recording artist. He is also a photographer and has produced the I:Dentity series for City Voices, creating images of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities across Gloucestershire, as well as a pair of films detailing the "Firsts" of Gloucester's Black community.
Now he is showing new photos in the exhibition "History, Her Story, Their Story, Our Story" at the Museum of Gloucester.
As part of the project school pupils were encouraged to ask the oldest person they know the question of when they first saw someone of a different ethnicity to themselves.
The stories gathered were explored in workshops that took place between the pupils and the artists.
With mentoring from Mr Burke, the artists have responded creatively to the stories that they were told from the pupils.
Mr Shafique said: "It's nice to reflect the community that I live in, that I was brought up in… and to see the effort put in by the schools to gather these stories and the enthusiasm of the young people and everyone involved.
"I've learnt so much in my own practice by having Vanley mentor me and it is great to have that opportunity to be mentored by such an influential photographer."
The project also features Elle-Bry Thomas' Barber Street exhibition, "One Street, Fourteen Barbers, Many Nationalities".
It celebrates all 14 of the barber shops on Barton Street in the centre of Gloucester.
Ms Thomas said the road gets a "bad press" and is somewhere a lot of people who live in the city would normally avoid.
She even admits that despite living in the city for most of her life, "if I had a choice I wouldn't be on that street".
But since doing the project her view of the road has "changed massively" after she saw it through a "different light".
"The barbers were all quite receptive," she explained.
"It was nice because there was an array of culture and it was nice to see how they all incorporate their cultures into their barbers.
"They all peacefully co-exist on that street, there's no beef, which is surprising considering how many there are."
Away from photography the exhibition also embraces different literary art forms.
Thembe Mvula is a South African writer and poet who grew up in Gloucester. Her work celebrates, unpacks or laments all that is tied to home, relationships and self.
As part of the project she delivered workshops to students at Denmark Road High School.
Ms Mvula explained that many of the students are "from families who have been born and raised in Gloucester and have a long heritage in the area".
She added: "A lot of the young people are really passionate about enacting change and continuing the work that is still going on to bring about equality in the UK.
"Whilst overt racism is not as present, institutional racism is.
"Talking to the students who were really passionate about that was what I took most from the project."
The exhibition has been created in partnership with City Voices which celebrates heritage and communities in Gloucester, as well as Gloucestershire Archives which is working jointly with Fresh Air Foundations to build its black history archive.
Jacqui Grange, who co-curated the project with Raston Williams, said: "The question about ethnicity was one we thought about a lot, and really covers a full spectrum of experience.
"Some of the experiences were quite sad, but some were really joyful and really interesting, so we expect and hope that more stories will emerge over the course of the exhibition.
"I see this as just the start of more work with the artists and Mr Burke, who is completely committed to Gloucester, he feels he is becoming part of the fabric of the Gloucester cultural scene as well."
The exhibition is running at the Museum of Gloucester from 16 October to 31 December.
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