Selected as one of the five showcases from the Annual submission entry on fashion and style, Heather Agyepong draws on historical and personal experience to disrupt the black, female narrative.

“On 11 July 1596, Queen Elizabeth caused an open letter to be sent to the lord mayor of London and his aldermen, and to the mayors and sheriffs of other towns in the following terms:

Her Majesty understanding that several blackamoors have lately been brought into this realm, of which kind of people there are already too many here… her Majesty’s pleasure therefore is that those kind of people should be expelled from the land, and for that purpose instruction is given to the bearer, Edward Banes, to take ten of those blackamoors that were brought into this realm by Sir Thomas Baskerville on his last voyage, and transport them out of the realm. In this we require you to give him any help he needs, without fail.”
Extract: Staying Power, Peter Fryer (1984)

The work was inspired by a 19th century Carte-de-visite of Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta. Sarah was the West African adopted goddaughter of Queen Victoria who came to live in England at a young age. The images are based on my own personal experiences as a young black woman, dealing with the macro and micro traumas of racism encountered while travelling around European countries. The format was based around Rosy Martin and Jo Spence’s ‘Re-enactment Phototherapy’. Too Many Blackamoors aims to challenge the ‘strong, independent, black female’ narrative that can burden and often entrap black women. With Sarah as my template, the project attempts to illustrate the effects of such perceptual limitations whilst exploring my own internal conflicts of falling short from such mainstream ideals.

The project was commissioned by Autograph ABP for The Missing Chapter supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Special thanks to Angela Dennis for her guidance during the project.
See here for more of Heather’s work.

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