Who Listens When We Speak?

Creatives of Colour Festival, April 12-13, 2024

Dr Zahra Khosroshahi (she/her) is a lecturer in Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow. Zahra is also the co-founder of Thousand&One; a social enterprise that supports women of colour in the workplace. 

Dr Kevin Leomo (he/him) is the Community and Engagement Manager for the College of Arts & Humanities at the University of Glasgow.

They both sit on the Collaborations & Cultural Activities Committee, and are invested in critical forms of public engagement and curatorial practice.

On April 12-13, 2024, we – Kevin and Zahra – hosted our Creatives of Colour Festival at The Civic House in Glasgow. Truly, a labour of love, this festival came to be a testament to our knowledge, as well as our lived experiences as people of colour (POC).   

For us, Creatives of Colour Festival was a showcase of the vibrant, brave, and creative practices of our intersectional and diverse communities. But it was also our attempt at carving out a space where we could be in dialogue with one another, without the usual threats of tokenisation and exoticisation.  

As our motto goes: our stories, our lens, our terms

A huge thank you to all of our inspiring contributors: 

Lil Green of @nobindingsproject for leading a special zine-making workshop, exploring our collective memories. 

Zandra Yeaman (@curator_of_discomfort) for delivering our welcome provocation and calling on us to use radical hope as we navigate these strange times. 

Natasha Ruwona (@badgalnt) for screening “maud.” and sharing the beautiful PASSIONS publication of responses to the life and work of Maud Sulter. 

Debalina Majumder (@debalina_mow) for the screening of “Gay India Matrimony”, and Rohit Dasgupta @rohitkdasgupta for providing additional context to the film and his own amazing insights. 

Razan Madhoon (@razanmadhoon) for sharing “Go Home” and for an inspiring discussion about the importance of her work and sharing the stories of Palestinians.  

Zahra and @thousand.one_org for offering a workshop for women and non-binary folks of colour on navigating the workplace.  

Sahar and Fariya for generously inviting us into @parveens_canteen to learn hands-on about their Pakistani inspired cuisine and delicious plant-based food. 

Diljeet Bhachu (@diljeetb_flute) for speaking wiht us and playing an absolutely mesmerizing set of flute and synths.  

Marlo De Lara (@marlodewawa) for likewise sharing insights into their work and practice and giving us a beautiful audiovisual performance.  

Effua Ibojie (@effuaeffua), Emma Hussain (@huishusane), and Anahita Saleh (@barbieliberationsoc) for closing out the whole festival in style with some amazing sets. 

It’s not lost on us that terms such as POC have their limitations. Often, these terms are used in lazy ways to describe us without taking into account our diverse identities, cultures, stories, and experiences. Instead, they’re thrown around and used against us to further marginalise, tokenise, and exoticise us.  

And yet, we deliberately chose the term creatives of colour to centre the works of our community – as a way to reclaim it, and to create pathways and links between our shared experiences, resilience, and challenges. Through her work, Black feminist bell hooks reminds us that resistance takes place on the margins. We meet there to form solidarities, and to fight against systems that harm all of us.  

We use the term POC as a recognition of our collective, knowing too well that it’s our only way out of colonial, capitalistic, patriarchal, and individualistic systems that inflict violence on us. When we say POC, it is always an invitation for creating braver spaces that honour our humanities and stories. 

We look back with a smile as we reflect on the festival. Despite the labour and the months (many months) of planning, it’s fair to say that this collaboration between the two of us, and all those involved, has left us wanting to do even more.  

One thing’s for sure; we’re just getting started. Curating a program like this has connected us so deeply with artists, thinkers, and activists. It’s really shown us the potential of bringing together POC and allies through creative practices to hold a much-needed space for much-needed conversations. And for that, we’re immensely grateful.  

But (there’s always a but, isn’t there!?) – it’s also exposed us, yet again, to the limitations of our institutions and their commitment to anti-racist and decolonial work. As two POC individuals working at one such institution, we were both disappointed by the lack of show from our White colleagues, whose expertise and practice promises diversity, anti-racism, and decolonisation.  

We pose a few questions, ones much bigger than our event and our institution. These questions, for a lot of us, are about academia and its often performative nature.  

– As scholars invested in work on anti-racism, DEI, and decolonisation, how do you support POC scholars/activist?   
– How do you celebrate the labour and work of your POC (and early career) colleagues? 
– How can you show up for and with POC colleagues, especially in our current political moment? 

This festival was about turning to our creative practices as an important space to challenge violent systems, but also to celebrate the resilience and power of our collective.