These Textile Designs Protest the Invisibility of Black Women in Western Art

Emilee Geist

Throughout August, VICE UK will be spotlighting projects from graduates across University of the Arts London.

Every summer, University of the Arts London holds physical showcases for their graduates. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, everything for 2020 has been moved online, to UAL Graduate Showcase – a virtual platform created with IBM, hosting work from thousands of students across art, design, fashion, communication, media and performing arts.

Throughout August, VICE UK will be spotlighting projects from graduates across the six colleges that make up University of the Arts London.

Journey of Marks is a stance against the removal of Black women from the Western art scene. It’s also an exploration of the artist’s African identity and heritage. The project consists of drawings, mark making, ripped pieces, weaving, spray-painted dot work and digital printing. Hope Mhlope used her iPad to design digital prints due to COVID-19 shutting printing studios and layered patterns over one another, giving her the freedom to mix and match exponentially.

“At the moment my work sits within my heritage and my Blackness,” Hope explains. “The project reflects the females in my family, so my aunties, my mum and my grandma who passed. That’s infused in how I’ve designed my prints and woven designs. I’ve got this image of my grandma wearing a Dutch wax cloth and holding me, so it’s taking reference from African cloth.”

'Journey of Marks' by Hope Mhlope

‘Journey of Marks’ by Hope Mhlope

'Journey of Marks' by Hope Mhlope

‘Journey of Marks’ by Hope Mhlope

“I was really interested in ripped billboards and looking at the detail within those halftone printed dots specifically. I took those colours and dots together and fused them together. There’s reference to a lot of African masks and African beading from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Congo and a lot of things I found in museums.

'Journey of Marks' by Hope Mhlope

‘Journey of Marks’ by Hope Mhlope

“I was documenting the whole process of me drawing and doing a lot of large scale drawings on Instagram because I wanted to be in control of my visibility as a Black female in a creative industry where Black women are invisible. I think it’s that fear of my work being detached from who I am and I’m trying to take control of that to prevent it.”

Discover more at the UAL Graduate Showcase.

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