from london with love: black in the day
By Piotr Orlov
August 22, 2018
Tania Nwachukwu learned early that the only way to counter the erasure of Black lives, and overexposure to negative images of Black lives, in the visual records of British society, was to take matters into into her own hands.
“Growing up, it was extremely rare to see historical images of Black people in the UK,” writes the 26 year-old, South London-raised actor, poet and facilitator. “Most of the Black history taught in schools was (and still is) very U.S.-centric, and we weren’t exposed to the narratives and images of the Black people who contributed to what made Britain ‘great’.”
A few years ago, creativity, conversation and fate brought Tania together with Jojo Sonubi, a graphic designer and party-promoter from Tottenham. Jojo was equally disgusted by the lack of Black joy and realistic representation of Black lives in British media and education systems. The visual experiences of Blackness that were central to their own lives, seemed nowhere to be found.
Says Tania: “Jojo and I were talking about our parents’ throwback photos from the ‘80s and ‘90s. We discussed the importance of archiving and telling our own stories and wondered how we could do that on a larger scale. I think our generation is really invested in defining what it means to be Black British/Black in Britain and taking control of how we’re seen.”
What Tania and Jojo decided to do was establish Black in the Day, a submission-based image archive that documents the lives and experiences of Black people in the UK. Launched in the summer of 2016, it was a simple idea: retrieve the family-and-friends snapshots color-fading in family albums of almost every household, scan the pictures, and share them with the world (on Instagram and Twitter, Black in the Day’s platforms of choice). They also turned the boring task of digitizing images, into parties, Scanning Socials, which take place regularly around London.
What began as a desire to document the mid- to late-20th Century experience of Black Britons that was beginning to be lost to history, started unearthing a much deeper and broader story. “One of my favourite submissions is a family portrait from the 1890s,” says Tania. “It shows a couple and their baby in front of their home in Taunton. It’s the earliest submission we’ve ever received and also the first time I had seen [an image of] a Black family in 19th century Britain.”
Almost instantly, Black in the Day gained mainstream acclaim, with events at London’s Victoria & Albert and Tate Britain museums attracting crowds. More important has been the unexpected, emotional discoveries that creating such a body of work has facilitated
“People love the archive because they’re able to relate to the images we’ve received,” says Tania. “They see themselves, their families and their cultures in the images of strangers and there is a familiarity that allows people to feel seen. We’ve even had long lost family members find each other through recognizing people from the images we’ve posted on our socials. It’s beautiful to know that the archive does more than what we originally intended.”
Find the ‘Black in the Day’ tent at AFROPUNK Brooklyn 2018, and check for the AFROPUNK x Black in the Day collabo on Instgram.
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