The Southbank Presents : Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors

Bernadine Evaristo by Bill Knight

Organisers of Black History Month activities this year, are being forced to be creative with their events.  None more so than the organisers of the Southbank’s exhibition of Phenomenal Women: Portraits of UK Black Female Professors. The exhibition has been placed outside in the open air by the Southbank popular riverside promenade ‘The Queen’s Walk’  in order get around Covid restrictions. 

The exhibition was due to open at the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer at the Southbank Centre. “It will now have a much more prominent public platform giving many more people the opportunity to ‘stumble’ across these portraits and to learn about the racial inequality within British academia.” State the organisers.

The exhibition features portraits of 45 professors across a broad range of subjects including law, medicine, creative writing and sociology and runs from 10 October – 8 November 2020 as part of Black History Month .

Adele Jones by Bill Knight

Amongst the 45 women being celebrated in the first-ever public exhibition to honour Britain’s Black female professors are award-winning author Bernadine Evaristo, poet and playwright Joan Anim-Addo and the first woman ever to be appointed head of a UK dental school, Cynthia Pine.

Dr Nicola Rollock commissioned and curated the exhibition, undertaking a three year research examining the career experiences and strategies of Black female professors at UK universities. The portraits were taken by photographer Bill Knight, who travelled across England, Scotland and Wales to capture the images.

According to a 2019 report by AdvanceHE. Black women represent the smallest group when both race and gender are put together as factors. “There are 19,285* professors in UK universities in total,. 12,795 are White males, 4,560 are White women. There are 90 Black men and 35 Black women.”

Dorothy Monekosso by Bill Knight

Dr Rollock, who recently featured in Channel 4 documentary The School That Tried to End Racism said: “I am thrilled to be working with the Southbank Centre on this exhibition.  As one of London’s leading arts’ venues, it is a fitting space in which to help draw attention to just how few Black female professors there are in the UK and to highlight their achievements.”

Cedar Lewisohn, Site Curator, Southbank Centre said: “It is an honour for the Southbank Centre to be presenting this important exhibition in our public spaces on the beautiful setting next to the River Thames.  Due to COVID-19, we have had to move this exhibition from our indoor spaces, to an outside setting. This means that thousands more people will see the project than might have originally. Access to education and culture is everybody’s right, and the need for culture and education to reflect the society we live in is also a subject that still needs to be fully addressed. This project goes some way into shining a light on these ever more urgent issues.”

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