Updated: Feb 26
Ruth I identify as a black woman mainly because of my culture, which differentiates me from all other nationalities; my beautiful skin and unmanageable but beautiful hair, the way I’m judged by others, the way I was raised and the morals and values passed onto me by my Eritrean parents. To me, being a black woman is more than just colour, it’s how I live. Being black is beautiful, it’s bold, it’s defying the odds of society, having to work twice as hard, and surprising people with the outcome. Being black is being proud, and lifting and praising our kings and queens to also be proud.
I feel like the representation of black women in the media is extremely disproportionate compared to that of white and fairer skinned women. However, even when black people do appear on social media, they are represented in a filtered form. They are shown with long straight hair emulating the European style , or their representation is based on negative stereotypes.
I saw a photo of a white model who was painted in a black skin tone, which I found really shocking - why couldn’t a black woman have been used instead?
I think that black women are often perceived as being angry. However, being a black woman means being confident, being myself and being comfortable in my own skin. Black women have been condemned for their features for many years whether it be their noses, lips or hair. I think that this is definitely changing, especially because now more black women are beginning to accept their natural features and hair.
Being a woman in a world full of men is one thing. Being a black woman in a world of white men is another.
Ideas of ‘blackness’ will forever be contested and will be endlessly discussed. Given that the term itself was invented and imposed by white imperialists, I don’t think anyone will ever be pleased with a final definition of what it means to be truly ‘black’.
Back home, feelings of ‘blackness’ are seldom discussed, given that people prefer to identify with their ethnic identities, the regions they live in, their family names or the languages they speak. Nonetheless, as an Ethiopian born in London, and a ‘Black British’ at that, I engaged in discussions about race and identity from an early age. I identify as a Black African, born in the UK, yet the pride I take in being a black woman doesn’t arise from the Black British experience alone - it is rooted in the legacies of ordinary Black African women throughout history.
Whether it be my sister, my mother, my grandmother, her mother, or even her mother, black woman before me have lived through hardship, and it is through their suffering that I am here today. So, to be a black woman isn’t just about my individual story, but more so about the lives and shared experiences of the black women who came before me.
“I am convinced that we Black women possess an indestructible strength that allows us to not only get down, but to get up, get through, and to get over” - Janet Jackson
Inspiration for the current series UNFINISHED derived from the artist's conversations with friends on frustrations regarding the way in which Black Women are portrayed, demonised and ignored within society. "All black women deserve to be recognised and represented, irrespective of their sexuality, size or shape".
UNFINISHED celebrates black women, who othe
rwise would be overlooked by the mainstream media. Including anecdotes from her subjects was a deliberate choice, in order to display and highlight the variety of experiences perceived by each woman, and further dismantle the idea of a single narrative. In this way, Aisha's photography is almost directed to her younger self who saw no resemblance of herself in the narratives communicated to her by the society.
Aisha Seriki is a Self Taught Photographer of Nigerian Descent. At the age of 8, her family immigrated from South East Asia to the UK and she has been residing in South East London ever since.
Much of her work is centred around and created as a commentary on social issues which are prevalent within the world today.
Her latest project UNFINISHED aims to celebrate Black Women, who are still widely underrepresented in the Arts and society.
Facebook: @Occupiedbythelense Instagram: @Occupiedbythelense