We’re back, baby! And today, as well as saying ‘hello’ to a brand new year, we’re meeting Joke, the gifted and incredibly inspiring artist who is on a mission to empower Women of Colour (WoC), both through her art, and her platform – She Stands Firm. Last year saw some incredible career highlights, from taking part in an exhibition at Tate Britain, to being featured as part of a nationwide billboard campaign, and we’re so excited to discover what’s next for her. Read on to learn more about Joke; her struggle to understand where she fitted in as a child, her journey to speaking up against injustice, and her ambition to trust the journey… without knowing the destination.
Joke, what’s your creative occupation?
I’m a German-born, Nigerian artist based in London. I currently work in Marketing for an afro hair and beauty company, while creating my own art on the side. I also run a WoC empowerment website called She Stands Firm where I strive to empower WoC to embrace who they are unapologetically. To create a safe space, whether through sharing stories, speaking out about certain issues, or just being a platform to reflect some of the incredible women who are out there.
Where have you been?
I’ve always been fascinated by art and how it can not only be therapeutic for me but serve to empower others. Thinking back to my early university days, I remember knowing what I wanted to achieve through my art but not feeling confident enough to do it. I’ve always had a deep desire to find ways to uplift Women of Colour/Black women which stems from my childhood, where I longed to understand who I was and where I fitted in. Most of all, I wanted to do something so that other Black girls out there wouldn’t have to feel that way.
It was in my final year at university that I truly started to express all of these thoughts through my art. I started to use my voice more and to speak up against injustice in ways I would have otherwise been too afraid to do. I realised the significance of sharing my story and I saw that, in doing so, I was able to build deeper connections with those around me. Those empowering conversations helped to shape me into who I am today. There’s so much power in sharing our stories, and I’m happy that I took that step into the unknown.
During my final year at university I joined a People of Colour arts organisation, and together we were able to put on exciting shows in places such as The ICA and Tate Modern. Being part of this group showed me the importance of being surrounded by like-minded people. I remember my first art performance; being on that stage surrounded by amazing Black women and feeling like it was the beginning of something important. Later on that year I had my first solo show.
Where are you now?
While I spent 2020 focusing on continuing to find my voice, I walked into 2021 feeling equipped to go out and use it through my art in physical spaces. I also made building relationships and joining communities a priority, which has made this past year all the more special. A particular highlight for me was having my art featured on billboards around the UK. My aim has always been to bring my art, and my words, directly to people so it was great for it to have happened in this way – I would have never imagined it! My art was also exhibited at Tate Britain to celebrate the launch of the ‘Life Between Islands’ exhibition, which was another moment I could only have dreamed of. I’m also grateful for exhibitions that were run by Black women, such as Picture Perfect, Presentations: A Celebration of Black Art, and MERAKI, that created spaces specifically for artists of colour.
Where are you going?
I hope to go in the direction of being able to do art full-time and to continue to find new ways to be creative, while learning more about the world we live in and the different people who reside in it. I’ve always been concerned about where I’ll be, but I’m slowly learning to trust that it’s ok not to know exactly where I’ll end up. I’m learning to take things one day at a time, and to trust the journey without knowing the destination.
Finally, what’s occupying your thoughts today?
I’ve been reflecting on the past year. I’m sure that the year was full of ups and downs for us all, but I’m feeling very grateful for all the lessons and the blessings. I learned and grew a lot over the last 12 months, and I’m looking forward to a brighter 2022. I’d like to take my art deeper in the sense of finding new ways to use it to create more of a positive change, while remembering that it’s ok to take a break once in a while to rest. I hope that this year we will all remember that we deserve to take up space – however that may look.
You heard her, you deserve to take up space! We couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing your journey, Joke. Make sure you visit her website and Instagram. Also, check out the She Stands Firm website and Instagram!
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