Nicola Tagoe, Project and Resources Lead, Academic Enhancement
June 2021 marked the third anniversary of the launch of the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education zine1. A series of online talks was organised, inviting zine makers and contributors to reflect on the impact of the zine and implications for the future of decolonising higher education.
History of the zines
Co-curated by Rahul Patel, Lucy Panesar, and Hansika Jethnani, the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education zine1 was created in 2018 as a collaboration. The Exchange and Arts Students’ Union worked to bring together diverse perspectives on decolonising the arts curriculum in UK higher education from staff and students across the university.
Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education zine1 was launched at Central Saint Martins and promoted through a series of curated exhibitions across the six UAL colleges.
The Arts Student Union and students continued to work together to produce the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives on Higher Education zine2. This was co-curated by Rahul Patel, Clare Warner, Hansika Jethnani, Anita Israel, Annie-Marie Akussah and Zina Monteiro, and published in November 2019.
As well as being freely accessible to the public as e-Magazines, the UAL Teaching, Learning & Employability Exchange have printed and disseminated over 17,000 physical copies of the zines over the past three years, which have served as catalysts for further decolonising projects and initiatives across the university and beyond.
Events in the Zine Anniversary series
The Zine Anniversary Series included six events. Two sets of Lightning Talks, a group interview with colleagues from the UAL Library Services, and three individual interviews with academics who curated exhibitions at the initial zine launch.
18 speakers participated in the events in total. This included academics, academic support librarians, educational developers, Associate Deans, and former students/Student Union Officers. Over 100 attendees tuned in for the talks, sharing insights, connections, experiences and responses, and contributing to the rich discussions that occurred during each event.
Use the links below to recap on speakers’ talks.
I had read the Decolonising zines when they came out and loved them. It was great to hear from some of the contributors and get their perspectives both from reflection and now. I hope that this project continues to grow and continues to make UAL question their positionality around lots of issues, to ultimately become a better institution for both it’s students and staff.‘
UAL staff member
Omitted & Making Histories’ Lightning Talks (Part 1)
The first event, Omitted & Making Histories Lightning Talks (Part 1), took place on Thursday 10 June, including talks by:
- Lucy Panesar (12 mins): Progression & Attainment Project Manager
- Hansika Jethnani (10 mins): Arts SU Education Officer (2016-18)
- Yasmeen Thantrey (5 mins): Campaigns Office, Arts SU (2020-21)
- Anita Waithira Israel (10 mins): Education Officer, Arts SU (2018-20)
- Vikki Hill (8 mins 30): Educational Developer: Attainment (Identity and Cultural Experience)
- Rahul Patel (6 mins 30): Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins
This series of talks presents an insight into the initial circumstances that led to the creation of the zine, speakers’ individual motivations for contributing articles and involvement in the curation process, the impact the zines had on their creative and academic practice, and further initiatives catalysed by the zines.
Curators Interviews, UAL Library Services
The second event Curators Interviews, UAL Library Services, took place on Tuesday 15 June, and included interviews with:
- Chris Foreman (6 mins 30): Associate Director of Library Services (Content & Discovery)
- Holly Callaghan (8 mins): Academic Support Librarian (London College of Communication)
- Both Chris and Holly gave an insight into the role that the zines played in sparking decolonial work across the university libraries and the wider HE/museum library sector.
- Viv Eades-Miller (14 mins): Academic Support Librarian (Central Saint Martin’s). The use of the zines as a tool of social activism and empowerment.
- Gustavo Grandal Montero (12 mins): Academic Support Librarian (Chelsea College of Arts and Camberwell College of Arts). Further reading groups at UAL that created space for dialogue and discussion amongst students and staff.
Curators Interviews (continued)
The third event, Curators Interviews, took place over three days from Tuesday 22 – Thursday 24 June. It included interviews with 3 academics at London College of Communication about the curation of their individual exhibitions.
- Maureen Salmon (20mins): Senior Lecturer, Design School. A creative critique of approaches to academic and cultural leadership and the needs for this to develop in line with increased prominence of anti-racist initiatives within UAL
- Karl Anderson Foster (20 mins): Year 2 Leader & Senior Lecturer. The curation of family identity through artifacts, graphic narrative, and personal archives of a Jamaican family living in Britain
- Mo-Ling Chui (18mins): Course Leader for BA Design Management. An ethnographic exploration of East Asian cultural identity and family relations, and representation in the media from Asian anti-racism to stereotypes of East Asian identity.
‘Omitted & Making Histories’ Lightning Talks (Part 2)
Interpreting Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks
The fourth and final event, Omitted & Making Histories Lightning Talks (Part 2): Frantz Fanon, took place on Tuesday 29 June. This series of talks addresses topics raised within Frantz Fanon’s seminal work Black Skin, White Masks. It included talks from:
- Dr Amita Nijhawan (6 mins): AEM Academic Projects Lead. A reading and critique of Toni Morrison’s short story Sweetness, addressing the internalisation of colonial mentality within a family context.
- Rotimi Akinsete (6 mins): Associate Dean of Student (Wellbeing & Inclusion). A recollection of an initial encounter with Fanon’s text and how this manifested into actively making changes in perceptions and practice.
- Jheni Arboine (6 mins): Educational Developer: Academic Enhancement (AEM lead at CCW). A creative exploration of the premise of the book in relation to one’s lived experience and identity as a woman of Jamaican heritage.
- Anita Waithira Israel (5 mins): Education Officer, Arts SU (2018-20). A call for a collective reimagination of blackness and addressing the racial trauma that exists amongst young people within educational contexts.
- Dr Gurnam Singh (5 mins): Visiting Fellow in Race & Education. A critique of Fanon’s treatment of the concept of ‘intelligence’ as a colonial legacy, perpetuating scientific racism through hierarchy and classification.
I learnt so much from the Lightning Talks Session, responding to Frantz Fanon’s ‘Black Face White Masks’. I am reflecting on the new insights I gained from the other four speakers. Having these spaces to actively listen and learn from new perspectives is vital. Decolonising is an intentional process of deep and immersive learning, towards transformational change.
UAL staff member
The tragic murder of George Floyd and subsequent rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 have brought the need for anti-racist initiatives and institutional decolonisation firmly to the forefront of social consciousness. We acknowledge however that the need and activity around decolonising work within higher education stretches back much further.
Although there is much work still to be done, UAL has a history of staff and students who have shown active commitment to democratising and liberating curriculum and practices. As well as the hundreds of staff and students who contributed to the Decolonising the Arts Curriculum Zines in 2018 and 2019, this includes the ongoing work of Shades of Noir (Aisha Richards), the CSM Challenging Times series (Rahul Patel), and the various campaigns and initiatives spearheaded by students and Arts SU throughout the years.
We hope that the open access resources resulting from the Zine Anniversary Series can help to challenge thinking amongst students and staff here at UAL, other Higher Education Insitutions, and further afield. We are extremely grateful to all our speakers for contributing to the Zine Anniversary Series, as well as colleagues, students and external guests who joined us to participate in these important discussions.
Dr Amita Nijhawan
Anita Waithira Israel
Dr Gurnam Singh
Gustavo Grandal Montero
Karl Anderson Foster
A special thank you to Rahul Patel for his role in co-curating the Zine Anniversary Series alongside Nicola Tagoe, and to the Teaching, Learning and Employability Exchange for supporting the project.
Get in touch
If you have questions, comments or would like to get in touch with the Zine team, email DecolonisingtheArtsCurriculumZine@arts.ac.uk.
Further reading and resources
- Listen to a podcast about the zines – Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: Perspectives in Higher Education – the story behind the zines
- Visit the zine blog – Decolonising the Arts Curriculum: perspectives on Higher Education
- Read about Decolonising Pedagogy and the Curriculum (PDF 224KB)
- Read about Debunking Decolonisation (PDF 128KB), an accessible resource for students and staff.