Interview with artist Chiyana Ankhrah

Ankhrah is one of three artists supported by this year’s Creative Talent Programme.

Interview with artist Chiyana Ankhrah

How would you describe your work to anyone unfamiliar with it?

My work is all about raising awareness for mental health and advocating for Black women in the fashion and beauty industries. I focus on using my editorial work to challenge and destabilise Eurocentric beauty standards because historically Black women are left out or misrepresented in the fashion and beauty industries, so it's important for me to use my work to diversify the images we see in clothing and makeup ads or in magazines.

I focus on raising awareness for mental illness in the Black community via my conceptual art because it's an incredibly taboo subject within our community despite the fact that we are severely impacted by it. I want to use my art to spark important conversations about the effects of mental illness – even if it's uncomfortable I do believe that they are necessary. It's really important for me to do this because there is also very little representation for us in terms of anecdotal or statistical research that specifically looks at mental illness and the effects of situational and intergenerational trauma that can be caused by (but not limited to) racism and cultural practices. This means that conversations about mental health lack nuance primarily because they tend not to focus on the fact that there are ways in which marginalised peoples mental health is affected by society as well as their customs, not just chemical imbalances.

How important is the kind of support provided by Creative Youth? 

I think that the programme is useful for young emerging artists because it'll help provide them with the tools and experience to develop their craft as well as their business, not to mention being provided with a space to create. This is something I think a lot of young artists need especially because the thing that I think hinders a lot of young creatives is lack of access to resources and support so it's really important that this kind of supportive environment is being provided by creative youth. I like the fact that Creative Youth is specifically for young creatives because they are usually the ones who go unrecognised or overlooked for their work and talent primarily because of age (particularly in the industry I am in) or lack of experience.

What have been your experiences with trying to access support in the arts before?

It has been a little difficult as there is a lack of diversity in terms of being offered support, so for a while I definitely struggled to find an organisation that believed in me and what I was doing enough, but I did notice that once I started researching grants and supportive organisations that aimed to help marginalised groups, or were diverse in terms of choosing to support creatives, things started to get a little easier – which takes the weight off of worrying about getting support for my projects and artwork. 

What part of the Creative Talent Programme are you most looking forward to having access to and why?

I am really looking forward to having access to a mentor as I think it will be useful to help me develop my craft and my practice. Although I've been doing photography for about 6/7 years now I've only been doing it professionally for the last two-ish years so my ability to market and network hasn't been perfected quite yet. Being able to work with a photography mentor will definitely help me with that.

If you’re able to say currently, what are your plans for the work you are going to create during your time with the programme?

I will be working on creating a photographic documentary that focuses on the anecdotal experiences of six Black men and women who are or have dealt with mental illness and exploring what that was like for them and how situational, intergenerational trauma and racial bias within mental health services negatively impact the mental health of the Black community.

Do you have any plans for after you’ve finished the programme/your career moving onwards?

My next steps after this will be to develop a sequel that looks at the effects of the 'strong Black woman' and 'aggressive' stereotypes and how they negatively impact the mental health of Black women and their ability to express emotions in a society that seeks to police them. I really love doing exhibition work so I'm excited to see where this project takes me and helps me learn in order to start creating artwork for the next stage of my project, especially because mental health is a really important topic for me.

Website: www.eshephoto.com 

Instagram: eshephoto  

Twitter: Eshe_Photo  

The Creative Talent Programme was launched by Creative Youth in 2009 to identify young and emerging artists and companies who have the potential to become excellent creative practitioners and give them the artistic, business and strategic support to become flourishing, challenging, exciting organisations of the future.  

Header Image Credit: Chiyana Ankhrah

Author

Dulcie Geist

Dulcie Geist Kickstart

Dulcie Geist is a Fine Art graduate, originally from Cardiff, now residing in Glasgow. They love Welsh culture, queer culture, pop culture, and lack of culture. They have a passion for the arts and an even deeper passion for anything that makes the arts more accessible (and frankly, more fun).

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