I have been blessed with a fertile imagination and I have always loved the power that images have to convey a resonance of place, feeling and time. When I was a child I would to read fairy tale picture books and become completely immersed in the fantasy of the story through the images that were created in my head. Throughout my life I have been awestruck by the way in which images have been able to move me deeply around many themes like relationships, history, visibility, style, culture and childhood. So, in the pages of this blog, I want to share some of those themes and the beautiful inspirations through photography and illustrations, that speak to us as multiple layers of visual story…

Let it be seen

This image shows a friends hands holding my Mamiya C330 twin-lens reflex film camera. When I shot it, many years ago, I wanted to make a visual comment about the absence back then, of images of Black Women in photography. I love the way the image integrates her seasoned hands and her mature shape, along side a piece of formidable looking photographic kit.

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Catching up with Digital…28 Years Later…

DSC_2255 copy

It’s been a long while since I last travelled with a professional camera. Luckily I decided to take out my under-used digital kit for the long haul journey to Jamaica.

With a different focus to before, I discovered that there is a gorgeous multitude of photo opportunities everywhere; from sun-drenched beaches, with crystal white sand, to stunning waterfalls and prodigious amount of local seasonal flora.

I have never really emerged myself in to digital photography, so it was great to be in the company of other photographers also. So, between my Nikon DSLR camera and iPhone, I managed to clock up over 2,000 digital images, compared to the 26 rolls of black & white 35mm film I shot some 28 yrs ago on my first family trip there.

Using the Nikon on manual (more familiar to me) with a 24-70mm F2.8 lens, I spent my efforts experimenting with exposure and at times simply for quickness, I whipped out my iPhone 6s.

At my age keeping up with rapidly changing digital technology is a pleasure, because I don’t have to get too serious while I learn and play…

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Contrasts, Textures and Hues – Exploring early printed images of people of African and Asian heritage

This neat book features a collection of selected woodcuts, engravings and lithograph images showing African and Asian people which was circulated in western magazines and books of the 18th and 19th centuries. Some of the images can be viewed as problematic in their context, while simultaneously offering important insight into the political and sociological depictions of the time.

A number of international writer-contributors have been invited to contribute their thoughts on a selection of the images; image captions place the pictures in their historical context; and there is further information about how the reproduction of images in print developed technically from medieval times.

If we stand tall it is because we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.” —African Proverb

Find out more and order your copy here: https://contraststexturesandhues.wordpress.com


The contact information at the bottom of the image is now out of date. Please visit: https://contraststexturesandhues.wordpress.com


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‘Coolie Woman’ legacy

Photo’s can help us to piece together and tell the stories about our inherited family and how our ancestors lived. For many of us there are gaps in these stories, where the missing information about the jigsaw of past connections is unavailable to us. Photo’s can give us clues about the relationships of the past: the time, place and people.

Despite the gaps however, it is crucial that we realise that we can still celebrate the legacy’s from our indentured Indian foremothers of the Caribbean (& beyond)…we can start by remembering their names, with or without a photo.

Fortunately, I am able to name three generations of Indian women in my maternal lineage, whose generational wisdom has enabled me to claim my Indian heritage in Indian diaspora. These women are the role models and ancestral energy that I can draw upon right now in this moment. This is immensely empowering when you are a dark-skinned, mixed African and Indian heritage woman. It is a blessing to have so much heritage to celebrate from both cultures.

While for some of us the term ‘coolie’ can be difficult description, baring in mind that it is often thrown at us as a term of insult; others are re-defining the word to mean that our ancestors have made a tremendous contribution to community and society through their work and toil. I like this definition.

Why should all of this even be important to us? Because we live with the legacy of those broken stories, these interruptions, for whatever reason, can powerfully affect our sense of continuity and belonging. Our Indian indentured woman-folk experienced profoundly interrupted lives along the passage from north India to the Caribbean and as we explore these stories, they can help us to formulate an understanding of our personal history and our sense of identity in the present. I am loving this journey…

For my daughters, sister, cousin, aunts and sista-friends.

A great resource for your Coolie Woman explorations is the work of Gaiutra Bahadur.



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Health and Heritage

Banana Carriers, Jamaica 1927

Banana Carriers, Jamaica 1927

So now it’s Black History Month again (October in the UK), it is always a wonderful opportunity to take some time out to celebrate cultural heritage and for exploring an array of achievements; the use of visuals are perfect gems for enhancing this exploration.

Vintage images provide meaningful stimuli for exploring our experiences within a framework of themes, such as personal heritage, or well-being. This early 20th century photograph (above), has fixed a moment in time – it shows us a group of women taking their banana’s, a local produce, to market and tells us a story about the time and the people in it…how they dressed, how they transported their produce and the environment which they inhabited. The photo caption adds a further dimension to the image, in the form of ‘place’, so that we know exactly where in the world the photograph was taken, or ‘fixed’.

Contrasting the photo-story which this picture offer’s us, by asking the same questions in the present time, we are able to look at how we live now and consider how we may relate to Caribbean foods and the stories we have related to them. This process links the past and present and offers a dynamic format for deepening our exploration and understanding of wellbeing, as it applies to us now and to our relationship with the foods highlighted in our sharing and any links to our own health.

Drawing on my heritage, health and group work skills, I am looking forward to the pleasure of facilitating a Healthy Habits – health, heritage and lifestyle event later this month. This is a very exciting opportunity and allows for creative sharing of stories as a wellbeing approach.

Enjoy your Black History Month

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Africa Kicks!

Soccer City, SA 2010

I have to admit that I am not and never have been into sport, any sport! Believe me, I don’t have an ounce of guilt about it either, and why would I? And no, I don’t feel as if I’m missing out on a thing.

So what I wanted to share with you this time, is how moved I was by the vibrant energy and creativity created by this years World Cup football held earlier in South Africa,
yes indeed a visual delight and truly spectacular!

A few weeks back I attended the launch of the ‘Africa Kicks’ project’s exhibition by the BBC in London and was impressed by the energy documented by the images taken at the time just before and during the games. The images for the exhibition were selected by Ivory Coast and Chelsea footballers Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou for this BBC exhibition celebrating a great year of African football. And although I hadn’t even been aware of who they were before, my ignorance aside, I was  surprised that this collection of exhibition images really does convey a sense of collective imagination and an apparent coming together of a nation and continent. Not just a game it seems, but also a vehicle for trade, cultural expression and hopes for the future.

With its talented collection of international players, Africa’s footballers like freedom fighters, offer infectious inspiration to young men across the continent and bring great prestige to their families, villages, regions and countries.

Despite the racial legacies still being negotiated in South Africa, I noticed how a national pride appeared to engulf most sections of the population, perhaps temporarily suspending the usual divide, we’ll have to wait and see…

My own South African granddaughter at age two attended the opening ceremony with her parents and she wore her SA ‘strip’ to nursery every Friday in the weeks leading up to the games. It is she who taught her grandma how to get the sound out of a vuvuzela!

Many of the images in the exhibition demonstrate beautiful visual vibrancy in the way that people have used their national colours for artistic body painting, appearing like mobile art installations. This alongside images of horn blowing children on the vuvuzela, impress upon the viewer a powerful ‘must be seen and heard’ quality.

The photographs for the project were taken as the BBC’s multilingual team of journalists toured five West African countries and the collection also features photography contributed by BBC listeners across Africa. The exhibition is due to tour in Africa from January 2011 and will return to the UK later in the year.

See a selection from the exhibition at http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/specialreports/africakicks.shtml

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HIV Negative!

1st December is World AIDs Day…

© I took this photo in Johannesburg in Dec 2007

Have you ever wondered about what it means to live with the HIV ‘virus’, either as positive carrier or as a ‘negative’ partner? I know that before I became a negative partner, I hadn’t given it much thought and was truly unaware of the social, emotional and practical impact that the HIV condition can have on everyday life.

I found that initially, on discovering the truth about my partners condition, that I was naturally confronted with immense fear, realising that I had internalised much of the information disseminated by the media campaigns of the 80’s – death, doom and AIDs!

Over time, it became necessary for me to raise my awareness and understanding with up-to-date information about HIV, however there were several other processes going on for me at the same time…

I had to be tested also and as you would imagine, I was greatly relieved to receive a ‘negative’ all-clear; but great anger had began to emerge within me towards my partner and so a difficult process of forgiveness had to be embarked upon. The anger threatened to engulf me at times and it was made worse by what felt like a “terrible secret” that was being hidden from our families and friends. This caused immense pressure on us, as it eliminated any obvious sources of possible support. The way I looked at it then was, as it was my partners truth, him being the one who physically had the HIV condition, I felt bound to honor and protect his privacy.

It was often painful and distressing to witness not just my own processes, but also his struggle with this new life-long challenge that had risen up to eclipse our life together.
Eventually though, neither of us could cope with the deep, unending sadness that enveloped our relationship and after several years of living with HIV, we eventually parted. Because of that experience, I am today fully aware of what it means to be a supporter of someone living with HIV, as it also affects ‘negative partners’ in the most profound ways. I had found out about a ‘negative partners’ group at the THT and felt affirmed by the discovery there that other ‘negative partners’ faced very similar issues.

So today and everyday from now on, be aware that there is often immense pressure to hide one’s HIV status because of the fear that results in harsh judgments and which often creates a cruel web of stigma and prejudice towards HIV positive individuals and their loved ones.

Be the exception to the rule….

What struck me in Johannesburg in 2007, was that everywhere it was visually obvious that it was World AIDs Day, with these outdoor plastic type posters in public evidence in many places in the city . Living in Britain, it’s almost as though HIV has fallen off the public agenda…

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