I am Melanin: The University Project That Led To An Art Exhibition In Bristol

I am Melanin, art curated by Stacey Olika for her final year project at University of the West England has certainly changed the narrative in Bristol. The lack of representation of black women in media when growing up caught Stacey’s attention, due to this she wanted to create art that she identified with. She looked to shift the perception of being a dark-skinned woman, as she had often felt there were negative connotations when growing up. Her purpose was to create a project which focused on embracing dark skin. Stacey currently works as a Programme Support Assistant at UWE, and seeks to provide guidance to others on how to portray their own identity through art. As this was guidance she once hoped for, when curating I am Melanin.

Stacey got in touch with a few women in Bristol, who confirmed that they would love to participate in the photo shoot. The collective consisted of a photo book, publication and series of posters which celebrated black women. Not long after submitting her project she was given the opportunity to showcase her artwork in Bath and Bristol. This led to the I am Melanin collective turning into a campaign within Bristol. The campaign focused on self-identification, Stacey was motivated to create this campaign to change the narrative and empower black women. Growing up she longed to see advertisement that she identified with, Stacey believes that bringing this campaign to life will hopefully help black girls on their journey of self-identification.

(Source: Amaka Designs, I Am Melanin Curated by Stacey)

Stacey’s hard work has not gone unnoticed, she was named as Bristol’s Most Influential under 24 in 2017. She looks to expand her work outside of Bristol and hopes to host international exhibitions in the future. She currently curates’ art exhibitions for UWE Equity and Africa Week UK which have been a success. Her recent artwork named ‘Ugly Truth’ sparked conversation in Bristol, as it focused on the topic of colourism amongst young migrants. This has given Stacey the opportunity to give lectures at UWE, to share insight that she has been exposed to through her artwork. Stacey has a few events in the pipeline which focuses on keeping students motivated, which we look forward to!

Follow Stacey to keep up to date with upcoming projects.