Shredding and braiding maps courtesy of Damion Griffiths
Over the last year the Society has had the privilege of collaborating on the AHRC funded project, Creative Approaches to Race and In/security in the Caribbean (CARICUK) led by Dr Patricia Noxolo (University of Birmingham).
CARICUK is a collaboration between artists and educators which aims to transform discussions about race in UK higher education institutions, by redefining race as an in/security. The three Black women at its core, Pat Noxolo, Rita Gayle and Tia-Monique Uzor, have led a programme of artistic provocations and public discussions, the development of online learning packs, and creation of a series of short films.
At the Society, our commitment as part of the project was to open the building, the Collections, the organisation, and our networks to geographers. It was an opportunity for us to actively engage in timely discussions of race in geography and to build on a programme of work extending back over the last 20 years, which began with the Unlocking the Archives project.
In spring 2021, we were delighted to host Dreading the map, an art installation which shredded and braided surplus maps from the Society’s Collections, using African hair care techniques to create a beautiful and provocative sculpture that transformed the Map Room. Through the summer, we collaborated on teaching resources working alongside the Geographical Association to use our shared networks to get these out to schools and used by teachers. In the autumn, we opened both the building and the Collections to film Black geographers and their responses to the space, and we’ve kept you up to date on these initiatives through our publications, our social media, and our lecture programmes.
CARICUK has been a wonderful showcase for the potential of creative arts practice and geography – the art itself, the collaborative process that brought them into being, and the conversations they have enabled. It’s also illustrated the critical importance of engaging young people and enabling them to see their own experiences reflected in the geography they study.
Throughout all the discussions there have been common themes of what it means to navigate alienating and often hostile spaces – whether that’s the UK higher education sector, the English countryside, or organisations like the Society – as well as being inclusive of a whole range of different ways of knowing, and of valuing experience in and beyond the academy. And the importance of belonging, what it means to belong, and the possibilities of building and claiming that sense of community and belonging.
As we look ahead, we are committed to finding funding to dedicate to a multi-year programme of research-led creative projects and activities modelled on CARICUK, and to make sure the legacies and learning of this project live on within the building, online and in our work and approach.
Find out more about CARICUK