“People of all races, genders, sexualities, and ages should feel empowered and understand that everybody has their own journey and should never feel like they don’t fit into society,” Solon Attoh, the Creative Manager of mixedracefaces tells What We Seee. “We stand by this quote: Be yourself; everybody else is already taken – Oscar Wilde.”
Their recent exhibition certainly was an embodiment of that ethos. The mixedracefaces organization celebrates ethnic diversity and mixed-race heritage in a deceptively simple — and hugely effective — way.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of the vastly growing population of mixed-race people around the world and how their mixed background and cultures influence the unique way they navigate their every-day lives,” their website explains. “Stories are subjective, allowing each person to be open, and truthful about their own life experience and opinions.”
Their stunning first exhibition took place August 13th and 14th, in the Copeland Gallery in Peckham. Featuring photographs of mixed-race subjects alongside stories about each person, the exhibition showcased the experiences of many mixed-race people, while also providing a crucial reminder that they all have separate, deeply individual stories. The photographs are captured by Tenee Attoh, Solon’s mother, and his wife Rachael Attoh manages the stories. Together, their work engages, provokes, and captures so much.
In this way, the exhibition was the natural extension of the project as a whole — and points to the history and progress made so far in removing prejudice, alongside how much work is left to be done.
Influence This Path
Though this was their first exhibition, mixedracefaces has an impressive history — including collaborations with Oxford University and the Institute of Cancer Research. The project was both inspired by — and in honor of — Rienkje Zoet and Fred Attoh’s relationship. A Dutch woman and a Ghanaian photographer, the couple married in the 1950s and lived in Ghana for 25 years. One of the most heartening parts of the project is being able to recognize how much has changed in the acceptance of mixed couples.
“We are in a different generation and time now; nowadays interracial couples are not so rare – they won’t be looked with prejudice if they walk in the street together or even if they are seen on TV,” Attoh explains. “For example, we run a series on our Instagram & Facebook stories which celebrates mixed couples and parents. From this, we are uncovering many interracial relationships and feel this is more widely accepted and growing rapidly.”
That being said, it’s important to note that for many mixed couples there is still a struggle to be accepted — and mixedracefaces is trying to be a part of that journey.
“Nevertheless, we only know what we are exposed to,” Attoh says. “Although we see a change from our lens, this is not to say that difficulties and pressures from society or even families on mixed couples don’t currently exist. With this said, the journey to ‘coming a long way’ still continues and mixedracefaces are here to shape and influence this path for the better.”
Open Up A Dialogue
While the photographs of the exhibition are striking and engaging, the stories attached to each subject form a crucial part of the project — and for a very good reason.
“From looking at social media or entertainment, mixed-race people can be fetishized by solely their looks, Attoh explains. “This is not negative, but these mediums just show their ‘attractive attributes’. We feel it is important to share the experiences of mixed-race people by accompanying their story along with their photo. This is also a key part of what the platform promotes, we open up dialogue and reveal the truths about their lives growing up and in the present. This empowers the participant and unconsciously resonates with the community, their friends, family and anyone who follows our platform.”
Not only do the stories help give a holistic presentation of each subject, but they’re also something that viewers and audiences clearly respond to.
“The stories enhanced the exhibition by adding context to the images of mixed-race people. At our recent exhibition in August, we visually saw how powerful the stories were as people were reading them 1-by-1 on the wall. This holds great value on our platform and reminds us about the purpose of mixedracefaces.”
Some of the stories are also available on their website, giving viewers all over the world an understanding of the mixedracefaces project. With an emphasis so firmly placed on the individuality of each subject, there’s a profound intimacy that comes with every piece.
A Powerful Force
While the exhibition initially feels like an exercise in storytelling, the organization understands the profound — and necessary — impact of telling these stories. In this sense, it’s also a form of education and service.
“What surprised us is that there is a real pure need for our platform, as we’ve noticed the demand is growing and is making a real contribution towards raising the awareness of diversity not just locally, but internationally and in places of work,” Attoh explains. “We now have a real responsibility to everyone. This is an educational platform for all races.”
Building on the success of their exhibition, mixedracefaces will continue to spread awareness and champion the stories of mixed-race individuals.
“We are actively working on new collaborations and we are currently embarking on a new collaboration with Parliament UK, where will reveal stories of mixed-race people working in their organisation. This will raise awareness of the need for diversity and equality,” Attoh explains. “There are so many other initiatives that we are working on but these will be revealed in due time. Stay tuned!”
You can find out more about mixedracefaces and their upcoming projects on their website.