A visit to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, sparked a thought in Aisha Seriki. Seeing a clear lack of diversity in the art there gave her an idea for a photo project. It’s the first step from her side in a strong supporting move for the POC art community.
Aisha Seriki started her journey in photography during childhood. Her father was a self-confessed obsessed photographer who would religiously document the world around him. Mundane or celebratory, he would photograph the moments of his family that mattered. But it was during her GCSE art years that Aisha took up photography seriously.
Photography stuck around as just a hobby for a few years after that. Five years later, she decided to pursue it more seriously. She’s currently a full-time student at London’s Royal College of Art.
I shoot mainly in the studio, mainly because of the control that it offers. I like that I can construct something new from a blank space.Aisha Seriki
Heaven Is Not Closed
Created for Yellow X Brooklyn Brothers Night School in 2019, Heaven Is Not Closed is a close look at the imbalanced representation of various cultures in the art circles around the world. “As part of the Night School, we were tasked to create a visual manifesto which represented us as creatives,” says Aisha of her assignment back then. “During that period, I had been interested in the visual representations of black women in art and media. I knew I wanted to create a project which tackled racist stereotypes of black women, which were all too common in the media. At the same time, I wanted to create a project to empower black women and my younger self.”
What transpired during a trip to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence resulted in an idea to give black women more representation in arts. “Whilst the works were beautiful and grand, there was a visible absence of diversity in the gallery,” rightfully notes Aisha. At this very moment, she made up her mind to photograph this project in a gallery to reclaim the space as a black female artist.
The Inspiration Behind The Look And Feel
As someone interested in the Italian Renaissance, it became one of Aisha’s primary references for the project. “I was pulled by the hues of Gold, Orange, and Blues which regularly featured in the paintings,” she says. The grandeur and richness of the Renaissance paintings were something she wanted to imbue into her photographs. It was shot inside the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK. Aisha is grateful she could complete this project without much resistance. “I didn’t run into many issues as the stewards allowed me to shoot in the gallery. I feel lucky because it would be almost impossible to shoot like this again in the post covid world without a permit,” she went on to say.
The feedback from her mentors and peers gave Aisha Seriki the confidence to make this her first publicly shared project. Back then, she was unknown in the photography circle, and pushing out this project was challenging. She would regularly submit work to open calls on Instagram. “I also created a press release and created a list of editors. I would go through the list and send it to each editor one by one until I got a response,” notes Aisha of the approach she took to sharing this project. “As a result, I managed to secure three articles about the project and an Instagram feature on Kanaizagallery, which really helped to get my work noticed.” Around the time of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, her work received an upsurge in interest. This helped her get more opportunities for work again.
I am interested and would like to see the art world engaging with black and POC artists past the marker of identity and race.Aisha Seriki
Are Things Improving In The Art World for POC
I asked Aisha what she felt was the reason for the lack of representation of people of color in art. She noted this issue has slowly been improving. “I would say that recently there have been attempts to rectify the lack of diversity in public institutions and the art space. Certainly, in London, there has been an increase in Solo Exhibitions featuring black artists in major art institutions over the past two years,” Aisha clarified.
All images by Aisha Seriki. Used with permission. Check out her website and Instagram page to see more of her work. Want to be featured too? Check here to see how.