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Surviving and Thriving: A Black History Month Artistic Celebration

Hosted by the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa


FLCA Welcome event for year 2020/21 

Black History Month is a time for deep reflection on the cultures, histories and contribution of people hailing from the African diaspora. Because this year coincides with the ongoing social, political and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the FLCA is looking towards art as a unifying point between these themes, and how it can be used as a vehicle for liberation and celebration in difficult times.

Join us on 15 October 2020 for our event ‘Surviving and thriving: A Black History Month artistic celebration’, where we welcome you to the FLCA and the new academic year in partnership with Black artists.

To view a recording of the event, please visit our YouTube.

Six artists from across Africa and the African diaspora have been commissioned to showcase their artwork interpreting the concepts of surviving (e.g. in quarantine, in hardship, as an ‘other’) and thriving in these spheres. Taking stock of these positions of vulnerability and difficulty, these works also allow space for positions of triumph and resilience. 

The FLCA embeds art into its work to portray and communicate difficult subjects in its research (such as the Politics of Return), and this celebration offers a unique opportunity to showcase the abundant artistic talent from African people and present anthropological knowledge in an alternative way to conventional academia.


Fatima Abukar, is a writer; poet and screenwriter, and performer; spoken word artist and actress from London. They were awarded the runner up status for the (Newham Youth Achievement Awards) Voice Award in 2018. The latest credits on stage and screen include Nadine in ‘Calm’ by Nicole Lecky (Stage), and Zakiyah in ‘Did you get the milk then?’ by Aston McAuley (Screen). Their publications include ‘Recovered’ in Sanctuary by Jenn Melon (poetry collection). And Abukar's Debut Poetry Collection 'Don't be dramatic, light her up' is coming out soon!

Valerie Asiimwe Amaniis an artistic explorer based in Dar es salaam, Tanzania. Her multimedia approach incorporates textile, poetry, moving image and digital collage into her work – most of which is self-taught. She is also an author, curator and art educator - focusing on enriching art education within her community. She experiments with elements of emotion and memory (history), her art pieces having narratives around the changing complexities of identity and body, along with the nuances of daily existence through an African feminine lens. Her work has been featured in various international exhibitions, including “The Main Complaint” at the Zeitz Mocaa, Cape Town and “Magician: Black Bodies and Portraiture” at the FFCA in Los Angeles. Furthermore she has co-authored a multimedia book titled Black Amara – a visual and literary journey of love, loss and healing to be available in late 2020. She is currently an MFA student at the University of Oxford (2020/21).

Fumani Mabogoaneis a singer-songwriter, and aspiring music producer, who recently completed the first phase of his MSc in Global Media and Communications at LSE. He is passionate about growing the arts and entertainment sector in the African continent by bringing together a mix of talent that is able to show off the creative uniqueness of each country on the continent and to strengthen the laws and legislation that should aid the growth of the continent’s creative sector. He is also a believer that through the arts, there will be increased advocacy on issues of social justice and that the arts will be fundamental in achieving a society that is fair, just and equal for all, especially for marginalised.

Bathsheba Okwenje, is a Ugandan artist currently living in Rwanda. Her practice involves interdisciplinary research and creation at the intersection of information practices and aesthetics.  Through the prism of love, dislocation, and the everyday, her work investigates hidden histories, the interior lives of people and the interactions between them. Bathsheba is interested the convergence of typologies and the archive to communicate her work. She positions it as a knowledge register, showing the work at the sites of her research and to audiences often overlooked. Her work has appeared in the streets of Delhi, Gulu, Johannesburg, Kampala, Oslo, and Providence; it has been exhibited in community centers and institutions as well as in art shows and galleries around the world. Bathsheba is a founding member of the artist collective Radha May. She received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her BA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is currently a Visiting Fellow at LSE’s Firoz Lalji Center for Africa working on an artist book about love in the aftermath of war in Northern Uganda.

Keleenna Onyeaka, is a versatile artist who uses the language of photography to tell intentional stories. Working through the camera, he strives to create images that help his audience review the intricate layers of the world and his view of it. Keleenna's deep story orientated style has seen him photograph moments for Notting Hill Carnival, London Fashion Week, Africa London Fashion week and Afronation. Keleenna has also fused his street style into his portraiture work which has seen him collaborate with various streetwear brands as well as producing album covers and promotional content for musicians.

Kemi Sulola, with a sound often linked to the golden era of 90’s RnB, Kemi Sulola brings that feel good vibe to her listeners through her use of positive messages, emotive melodies and her light warm vocal tone. Born and raised in East London, the British soul singer has released her own music projects which has gained international acclaim in the music scene as well as supported and collaborated with award winning artists such as Stormzy, Teedra Moses and PJ Morton. Additionally, been recognised by legends such as Trevor Nelson and Janet Jackson. She is also a member of the Brit Voting Academy, where she is able to use her voice to nominate some of the most credible acts in British music for the prestigious award. Kemi has collaborated with other artists within her field as well as teaches performance and vocal techniques with young people and children.