When Black Square Paintings and White Marble Statues Converse.

Inclusivity Course Artefact (1500 words).

Student Number: 19040502

Raksha Patel © 2020 


I am a visual artist and lecturer. My artistic practice focuses upon themes of race and identity. I currently teach on the BA Painting Course at Camberwell Art College.

I am saddened to share that I have recently encountered micro aggressions and heard racist remarks at college. As a result of this, I have decided to direct my energies into creating an artefact that explores race and racism, focusing on where it stems from, and how it can be curbed. 

I thank the Inclusivity Course for giving me the platform to voice my opinions openly, and to share them within an arena that is safe with colleagues that welcome an honest discussion on a subject matter that can potentially unearth trauma and is difficult for many to broach. 


The idea for this artefact stems from the lack of conversation that are had on the subject of race. This silence is a common experience had by many students and is mentioned in the (Room of Silence). My artefact offers the opportunity for a steering group of students to collaborate in curating an exhibition that uses a selection of contemporary artworks, historical artworks and domestic objects. The artefact can be opened out and extend into a series of related discussion-based events that refer to the display, as well as subsequent exhibitions that emerge as a result of the discussion that showcases students’ artworks. A publication would commemorate this project.

I am interested in working with a diverse range of students, approaching this project with them in a manner that allows the steering student group autonomy and leadership in how this artefact manifests and unfolds. As a tutor I am aware of my position, which carries power, so rather than ‘teach’, to impart knowledge, my approach is to ‘soft’ facilitate and to allow information to emerge via open discussion and exploration. I believe that creativity flowers best in an environment that is safe that has been cultivated through a sense of trust. This space would be for students to own and freely express and voice their opinions My thinking behind this are enhanced by (Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed) who likens the position of the tutor to the coloniser.  

Usage of the Artefact

My artefact offers the space to discuss race, racism and the hierarchies of skin colour. Through the gallery space opportunities are open for conversations that fall outside of the current curriculum as artists explore a wide range of themes and topics that tend to connect to their lived experiences. 

As exhibitions are not studios or classrooms, they allow the freedom for open discussions on topics such as post-colonialism, empire, race and power. By making an exhibition, which has been curated in a specific manner to deliberately evoke conversations on the above themes, it paves the way for all students to learn the truth about the brutal aspects of British history that has not been taught in schools and colleges. Colonial history is often missing from both the National Curriculum and visibly absent in the art-world.

After reading (Duna Sabri’s) research, and from my experience it is evident that some members of staff lack the confidence to talk about race, discuss identity and cultural heritage and colonial histories in an inclusive and a holistic manner. This artefact and its subsequent exhibitions, projects and publication would be invaluable to the current climate of racial tensions at UAL and will begin a process of healing through conversations about our histories, race and racism. 


The course that I work on is taught by twenty lecturers, out of which, two are non-White. The student intake for 2019/20 is 97% White British/European (this percentage is from the observation of student numbers). I feel that is a cause for concern as it does not represent the diverse communities of the UK, nor does it represent the cultural diversity of Peckham, which is home to a large African and African-Caribbean community. 

I have heard students say that they apply for Camberwell to be a part of this community and wish to learn about a range of cultures and traditions. However, without a diverse workforce the student’s aspirations cannot be fully realised when the staffing body is mainly White, and do not have knowledge of cultural diversity due to the lack of lived experiences that a POC might have. These concerns and reflections are also discussed in detail in (A.Richards and T.Finnigan Retainment and Attainment in Art and Design) which mention the value of a diverse workforce. 

There is currently an attainment gap of 18% between White and BAME home students on the BA Painting Course, which (Duna Sabri) has researched possible causes. I strongly believe that by diversifying the curriculum through concerted effort that includes artworks and art-theory created by Black British and British Asian artists then this attainment gap will begin to close. Staff teaching on the course would need to develop the skills to discuss race fearlessly and develop a well-rounded knowledge on post-colonial theory (resources can be found to aid this on the SoN website). 

Recently the world has witnessed mass demonstrations on Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd. After Blackout Tuesday (a performative action made by many who do not usually care to challenge racism), UAL received a backlash from students and alumni on UAL’s Instagram and Twitter feeds. Students were saying that the University’s token gesture of the black square and its silent response to comments is complicit to the University’s institutional racism.

In response to this I have recently created a resource of British POC artists specifically made for Fine Art students. The resource aims to de-colonise and contribute to the current material being taught as this is limited with its focus on West European art history (Whiteness, Critical Race Theory and Education Reform). I hope that this resource will aid staff and students to learn a more inclusive version of artists and their place within art-history. 

The Process

I would present a series of well-known works to a steering group of students. Together we would create an exhibition using prints and cut-outs of the actual works for temporary public exhibition. The display would act as a prompt in provoking questions about racism and White Supremacy. This is because of the nature of the works chosen for the exhibition offer little space to evade discussions on race making it difficult to step around the elephant in the room. 

The artworks that I would present to the students would include (but not exclusively so) a Picasso painting referencing an African mask, an African mask, a white marble Greek statue, a Frank Bowling painting depicting a map of Africa, Chris Ofilli’s Blue Devil painting, Donald Rodney’s sculpture In the House of my Father, Sutapa Biswas Pied Piper, Lubaina Himid’s Carrot Piece, and Malevich Black Square. Students would be asked to contribute household objects and textiles that link to post-colonialism, adding personal narrative from the present day. The role that I would encourage students to play would be to find a way to curate the works – so that manner in which they are displayed – would create a dialogue with each other as artworks and offer the opportunity for us the audience to engage in the conversation.  

Donald Rodney, In the House of My Father, 1996/7

In addition to the exhibition I would work with students to create related events, such as series of provocations that would be designed and devised by the steering group, this will include hands-on activities so that everybody present can partake in the discussion. 

Part two of this project would involve the steering group of students putting a ‘call out’ to other Fine Art students on campus. This would be to participate in an exhibition using the initial event as a springboard for new work. Once the exhibition is launched, and a programme of related events are organised and there is a publication made of the entire project that records the process and the new artworks made. This is then kept in library as a record and for future students to draw upon. 

Evaluation and Conclusion

Currently I can only draw upon previous projects of a similar nature to estimate how this artefact would work. On past projects when discussing race with young people, the tutor has to be aware that everybody is being included in the conversation. It is a delicate subject area so treating everybody’s contributions are done with respect and care. Occasionally, the situation arises when a student unknowingly has said something offensive or hurtful and this has to be handled in a manner that is firm, yet gentle giving a full and thorough explanation of how was said could be construed within the wider meaning and context. I feel that before commencing a project with young people on race, some ground rules and guidelines need to be in place, which would relate to how we speak to each other, as well as icebreaker activities where we all understand what is meant by the words, identity, race and racism. An artefact like this is much needed at UAL, it would be an enjoyable yet creative process for students and staff to engage with, giving lasting results. 


Friere, P. (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London. Continuum.  

Sabri, D (2017) Students’ Experience of Identity and Attainment at UAL, Final year 4 report of a longitudinal study for the University of the Arts London 

Tapper, H ( 2013 ) A Pedagogy of Social Justice Education: Social Identity Theory, 

Intersectionality and Empowerment. Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 

Gillborn, D (2005) Education policy as an act of white supremacy: Whiteness, critical race theory and education reform

Journal of Education Policy

Sherrid, E (2016) The Room of Silence, Rhode Island School

Elizabeth Waddell, (2018) The (In)complete Marbles? Displaying the Disabled Body. The Historian 

Matthew Ryder (2014) Chris Offili’s Blue Devils; between black men and the police. Guardian Newspaper 

Cordova, RC (1998) Primitivism and Picasso’s Early Cubism. University of Berkeley 

Shades of Noir (resources) https://shadesofnoir.org.uk

Richards. A and Finnigan.T (2016) Retention and Attainment in the Disciplines: Art and Design

Higher Education Academy report

Biswas. S (1987) The Pied Piper of Hamlyn. Arts Council Collection. 

Kasimir Malevich’s Black Square https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Square_(painting)

Rodney, Donald (1996/7) In the House of my Father. Tate Gallery Collection

Curators Urge Guggenheim to Fix Culture That ‘Enables Racism’ The New York Times 22nd June 2020

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