TOP: SOAS University of London Students, 2018
BOTTOM: Bullingdon Club, University of Oxford, 1988
AN ODE TO HER EXCELLENCE (2018)
'An Ode to Her Excellence' is an unabashed celebration of black womanism, reimagining power structures and building on a photographic visual archive.
Primarily, the series subverts images of white male hegemony, most notably mocking the notorious Bullingdon Club, an epitome of quintessential British misogyny and elitism. Portraying students from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), a university which debatably positions itself as an antithesis to Oxford stereotypes, An Ode to Her Excellence visually satirises power structures and gives agency to black womxn’s voices and bodies whom are too often subjugated and objectified. The chosen location of The British Museum, a monument of Britain’s loot and imperial legacy, stimulates a harsh juxtaposition and call for decolonized reimaginings of physical and non-physical structures of power.
In addition, An Ode to Her Excellence is a feminist revision of mainstream representations of the Black Panther Party (BPP). Misinterpretations of the iconic movement predominantly champion and hero the black men, keeping the works of many womxn revolutionaries in the shadows of patriarchal frameworks. As history reveals, not only for the BPP, but also in liberation struggles throughout Africa, black womxn have inadequately been credited despite their integral and central roles in these movements.
In light of the groundbreaking Marvel blockbuster, Black Panther, in which the black womxn is championed, An Ode to Her Excellence continues this acclamation. It is a visual archive of black womanist excellence, (re)valuing and celebrating everyday forms of resistance in historic and contemporary spaces.
Ultimately, this series seeks to inspire and honor womxn of colour. It is solidarity in the celebration black girl magic as a form of decolonising institutions that historically erased and commodified our individualities and achievements.
PHOTOGRAPHY: ETHEL TAWE (@artofetheltawe)
CREATIVE DIRECTION: TOBI ONABOLU (@tobionabolu)
LOCATION: THE BRITISH MUSEUM, LONDON