Ehis Ilozobhie (an undergraduate student in the Department of German) is exploring how Black students and alumni navigate King’s through a combination of portrait photography and storytelling. The project questions the visibility and versatility of Blackness at our institution, analysing the predominance of narratives about “Black excellence” and creating more space for the “everyday”. Showing the range of Black faces at King’s aims to shift perceptions of the university as a predominantly White space.
"Black Excellence" and the 'everyday'
According to Ehis the idea to question the predominance of narratives about “Black excellence” and to make space for the 'everyday' 'was born out of my own experience at King's and how navigating campus as a Black student was almost a daily challenge and I thought it right to channel that into the project. This has obviously now evolved and candidates we've contacted have agreed with the sentiment and were keen to be profiled because of this'.
‘I feel like sometimes it can be really overwhelming and also like just feel like you're being excluded, like your blackness isn't necessarily accepted, because you're not doing these amazing things, and to be able to just sit down with someone who for example who is just trying to balance this degree or someone who is working a full-time job and listen to their stories, listen to their journeys’.
‘I really also want to display the versatility of students because sometimes it's very easy to provide examples like Dina Asher Smith, an Olympian but that's not an everyday story. These are the people Kings really likes to promote but sometimes it can be very hard if you just want to find an average student who hasn't got it all figured out’.
To start the project shortlisting was required. Ehis commented that 'It was not a process of calling on all our black friends'. Ehis and his team took the shortlisting process very seriously, taking 3 months to extensively research and shortlist a variety of students across different disciplines, and of different genders and ages.
The project is ongoing and currently, 40 out of 50 Black individuals at King’s, 25 undergraduate students, 15 masters’ students, and 5 members of staff, have been contacted and asked to participate. It is hoped that some of the interviews and photography will take place in person.
The project aims to go live in September or October, to encourage Black 6th Form and college students to apply for higher education at prestigious universities. Ehis summaries his aspirations for the project here:
‘Where you have this entire project going live and your like wow there's black students studying chemistry at Kings, black students also studying digital culture. Like we have a whole bunch of various degrees and I really want it to be a thing of representation for 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds, males and females, to just see themselves reflected around campus.’