Grace Wales Bonner: Creating A 'New Real' For The Black Male

Grace Wales Bonner: Creating A 'New Real' For The Black Male

To analyse and deconstruct the conceptual underpinnings of Wales Bonner - the ‘menswear label’ conceived by the 27-year old, London-based polymath, Grace Wales Bonner - is to delve deeply into a densely interconnected matrix of aesthetic, textual and historical references. There seems to be no beginning nor foundation per se, no solid theoretical ground on which to stand and build outward from. Rather, what one discovers is a broad multiplex of cultural signifiers – an unstable composite of bodies, images, texts, sounds and materials that delineate a critical space of ambiguity, a volatile site of perpetual potentiality, a ‘diasporic field’, if you will.

Without the guidance of a presupposed foundational metanarrative, how does one then formulate a critique of the Wales Bonner project? In my view, one can begin by placing a metaphorical magnifying glass onto the various nodal points that give shape to Bonner’s sophisticated, cross-cultural, interdisciplinary practice. By understanding the relationships and commonalities between the images, collections, films and performances that constitute the Wales Bonner universe, I hope to devise a more comprehensive discursive framework for approaching Bonner’s project. The reader should also note my deliberate use of the terms ‘project’ and ‘practice’ to describe the totality of Bonner’s cultural production. It is my belief that such terms reroute the modes through which one can appreciate Bonner’s critical engagement with contemporary visual culture. To simply name Wales Bonner a ‘menswear label’, albeit an exceptional one, is to limit the scope of discourse that can surround and give weight to her practice’s cultural output and unique perspective – a point of view likely shaped by her upbringing in the urban, cosmopolitan environment of London with a Jamaican father and an English mother. As Bonner herself said, her label is “about more than fashion. Fashion is one avenue of exploration, one outcome of the research I’m doing.”[1] Thus, this essay aims to re-position Wales Bonner as a postmodern, postcolonial, research-focused art practice; one that contingently operates within the mechanisms of the fashion world and uses clothing as a primary organising tool to probe and disseminate its ideas on identity, subjectivity, representation and beauty. More specifically, I argue that Wales Bonner enacts the ‘diasporic strategy’, a term coined by Kobena Mercer, whereby a Black aesthetic is generated through the critical appropriation and subsequent disarticulation of dominant (that is, European) cultural codes. Further, I argue that Bonner reconstructs these hegemonic codes to articulate Stuart Hall’s conception of identity - in this case, black (male) identity - as engaged in a constant process of “becoming”, an ontological journey with no pre-defined endpoint; one that carves out a spectrum of possibilities with regard to the intersections of culture, race, gender and sexuality[2].  It is my hope that this re-framing problematizes the discursive boundaries between art and fashion, and impels critics and art historians to (re)consider Bonner’s myriad connections to the art historical canon.



My analysis will begin with a visual reading of four images selected from three of Wales Bonner’s noteworthy collections. 

The first two photographs (images I & II) belong to the Ebonics Collection, released in Spring/Summer of 2015[3]. In Image I, created by frequent collaborator Harley Weir, two black men embrace each other, their arms and torsos remain interlocked, suggesting a physical dialectic of tension and release, while their mostly bare feet remain shallowly immersed in a mauve, dream-like lake. The rich detailed materials covering the men’s bodies add a sensuous layer to the poetic image; in the scene, the shimmer of pale ochre velvet contrasts seamlessly with the grainy quality of striped navy denim. One is left to contemplate whether these men are in a state of dynamism or stasis. In fact, who are these men? Where are they? What is the nature of their relationship? These questions continue to haunt the viewer in Image II, where another pair of black men feature prominently as subject matter. Produced in collaboration with Brett Lloyd, the compositionally balanced photograph shows one of the men leaning horizontally across a table, hands stretched out, while the other subject (donning the same velvet jacket as one of the men in Image I) assumes an upright stately posture behind his pictorial counterpart. The intimate double portrait, through its employment of high-contrast, black and white editing, emphasises Bonner’s signature ornate embellishments. By juxtaposing Swarovski crystals with cowry shells, the artisanal embroidery functions as a cross-cultural, semiotic play on currency and value.

Created in collaboration with Lord Snowdon, Image III originates from the Malik Collection of Spring/Summer 2016. Once more, two black male subjects appear front and centre. The subject on the left, draped in a loose-fitting cream linen suit and adorned with a cowry-laced headpiece enacts a subtle contrapposto while the subject on the right maintains a rigid frontal pose, bringing attention to the exaggerated proportions of his straight, wide-legged, and high-waisted black trousers. A subdued layer of rouge blush and lipstick graces the men’s faces giving rise to a performative bodily presence that subverts heteronormative expectations of gender expression.

Lastly, image IV, photographed by Jamie Morgan for the Ezekiel collection of Spring/Summer 2016, depicts a single black male subject. Clothed in a lengthy slim-fitting navy coat and holding a record of Jamaican musician, Peter Buster, his face remains obscured behind an effeminate bejewelled veil of pearls and crystals. For the collection, Bonner centred her cultural production on the legacy of Ethiopian emperor, Hailie Selaisse. Bonner’s interest in the historical figure stems from his espousal of a form of Black consciousness that was neither submissive nor antagonistic to European cultural codes. In Bonner’s words:

 … with Haile Selassie I noticed how in different situations he'd perform his blackness in different ways; sometimes he'd be wearing European military dress to show how sophisticated Africans can be, and then in some situations he'd want to show that he was different to Europeans and he was African and coming from a different point of view.[4]

Selaisse’s lived experiences almost anticipate the influential theories of ‘postcolonial hybridity’ and ‘diasporic thinking,’ that would emerge decades later, formulated by the likes Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Spivak, Stuart Hall and Kobena Mercer whose ideas have thoroughly informed Bonner’s practice. Thus, by recalling the regal grandeur of 19th Century European ceremonial dress and evoking a plurality of diasporic signifiers, image IV lays out a romantic, historically informed visual mapping of Blackness that brings Bonner’s ‘wordly’ approach to the fore.

Admittedly, Bonner didn’t directly produce any of the above photographs. However, her exceptional aptitude for artistic direction and collaboration unravels in the way these images communicate clear conceptual continuities, which in turn reflect a deep level of intellectual engagement. I have identified four such theoretical themes, which, as the reader will notice, are inevitably interdependent.

First, these images activate the gaze of the black male, metamorphosing him from an object of consumption, “a shadow at the heart of a commerce of the gaze”, into an autonomous, self-assertive subject[5]. For example, in image II, the two models return the viewer’s gaze, graciously reclaiming their subject positions. The narrative of the image, as ambiguous as it is, is nevertheless about them. Bonner’s nuanced understanding of the critical positioning of black [queer] male bodies is supported by her acquaintance with a rich canon of Black literature, encompassing the postcolonial writings of Aimé Césaire, Wole Soyinka and Franz Fanon; the Harlem Renaissance literature of Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin; and the more contemporary work of Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs and Hilton Als. Although Bonner’s research process gives rise to a visual footprint that privileges a particular subjectivity (that of the black male), these images do not delimit a sphere of ‘authentic’ expression. Rather, they express an affinity for ambiguity and the in-between, reflected in their multi-temporal, cross-cultural and androgynous sensibility. As Bonner notes, “My work is an attempt to show a spectrum (my emphasis) of myself rather than a certain way of behaving or looking”[6].

This leads me to a related second point, which is that Bonner’s collections and photographic editorials queer time and representation by destabilising identity binaries (masculine/feminine; heterosexual/homosexual), cultural boundaries (African/European) and linear historical narratives (traditional/modern). By deploying the black male body as the locus of this queering activity, Bonner’s aesthetic codes expand and complicate notions of Blackness vis-à-vis diverse geographies, histories, genders and sexualities. In the process, the Wales Bonner project conceives of a Black universality – a “black symphony”, in Bonner’s words – by identifying points of harmony and dissonance between the multiple sites that constitute the Black diaspora, from Lagos and Dakar to Harlem and Kingston[7].

Third, Bonner imbues her images and clothing designs with a peripatetic consciousness that relies on a logic of simultaneity and disjunction to generate meaning. Bonner once stated, “I always think about mixing things together. It's never about a kind of singular viewpoint, it's just about multiplicity and lots of things happening simultaneously”[8]. In all her collections, the unpredictable results of cultural contact, cultural translation and historical entanglement play out in the most exciting ways. For example, Bonner’s aforementioned signature embroidery, which juxtaposes cowry shells (a pre-colonial African signifier of wealth) and Swarovski crystals (a contemporary global signifier of wealth), produces an expanded understanding of luxury, beauty and value. Similarly, in image IV, ceremonial regal tailoring sported by the European aristocracy contrasts with a beaded veil that recalls the elaborate crowns worn by Yoruba kings.

Bonner’s sophisticated grasp of cross-cultural dynamics derives from her open-ended research process, usually spurred by a memorable, sensory-loaded travel experience. For example, with Ebonics, Bonner spent time in Dakar with Harley Weir to create a documentary about the local wrestling culture; the subjects in image I are in fact two wrestlers, photographed in Lake Retba. While interacting with the wrestlers, Bonner noticed that the garments they wore were quite feminine - a sartorial contrast to the hyper-machismo mentality that often underwrites rituals of wrestling[9]. Simultaneously, Bonner looked to the Harlem Renaissance for inspiration, a notable period of Black cultural renewal in the United States. A lesser-known fact about this period - and I suspect this is what interested Bonner - is the extent to which the artistic movement was largely pioneered and animated by a circle of Black queer artists. The literary and visual work produced by this generation is individually specific and covers a broad range of themes but what one finds, for example, in Richmond Barthé’s African Dancer statues and in Richard Bruce Nugent’s modernist piece of fiction, Smoke Lilies & Jade, is a re-thinking and destabilising of the rigid dichotomies of the masculine and the feminine. In sum, Ebonics collapses heteronormative gender assumptions by incorporating into its material and visual repertoire, moments of gender fluidity as manifested in two distant, but historically entangled, Black metropolises.

Bonner’s trip to Dakar also inspired the Malik collection, which is centred on the story of Malik Ambar, an Ethiopian ex-slave that became a ruler in West India in the 16th Century. Bonner mentions, “Because I’d come back from Senegal, I was noticing contemporary mirroring [between African and Indian cultures] as well in the cross-over in terms of music and film references that are explored in different ways but have a thread running through them”[10]. Soon after, Bonner travelled to India, collaborating once more with Harley Weir, to study the connections between Africa and India, two internally diverse postcolonial geographies. Through Weir’s mystic images and enchanting short film, one observes Bonner’s ability to translate her travel experiences into conceptually laden material and visual forms that ‘travel’ and become a point of departure for an alternate reality, a parallel history.

Fourth, by virtue of the three preceding conceptual continuums, Bonner produces a ‘diasporic image’, the spectral by-product of modernity[11]. By adopting the postcolonial, diasporic strategy whereby cultural essentialisms are called into question and drawing on Black queer literature to articulate multiply valid expressions of masculinity, Bonner expands the Black imaginary by examining, critiquing and aestheticizing the ways in which the black male body has been constructed and regulated across time periods and between cultural spheres. Akin to the painted figures in Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s sombre portraits and the unbothered, aristocratic characters in Toyin Ojih-Odutola’s luscious drawings, Bonner’s subtly subversive project deconstructs and reorganises the layers of socio-cultural symbols that produce the Black male subject, transforming him from an object of White fantasy “woven out of a thousand details, anecdotes and stories” into a calm, enigmatic beauty that is unapologetically Black but situated between various cultural sites, capable of continuously re-inventing himself and the world he inhabits[12]. It is this Black male subject that lives in the aforementioned ‘diasporic field’.

Bonner’s conception of the Black male aptly recalls the writing of social theorist, Achille Mbembe, who describes the Black man as “the silt of the earth, a silt deposited at the confluence of half-worlds produced by the dual violence of race and capital”, which then, in Edouard Glissant’s terms, became a “fertilizer that gave birth to new forms of life, labour and language”[13]. In other words, out of the horrific events of slavery and imperialism emerged a Black male subject, who, alienated from his history and from himself, reacted to his designated status as ‘Other’ by inventing various socio-cultural expressions that ‘proved’ his subjecthood. However, given that Black populations were scattered all over the globe as a result of these seismic historic shifts, reclamations of subjectivity took on various forms as the diasporic strategy was deployed in multiple geographies and within disparate cultural landscapes. These wide-ranging modes of cultural translation and sophisticated acts of subversion have made themselves known in the world through distinctly identifiable forms of spirituality, music, language, fashion, cuisine and visual art. Casting the words of queer theorist, Jose Munõz, along a Black axis, such creolised cultural manifestations help us – that is, the entirety of humanity – to ‘see the world anew’[14].

Furthermore, bearing a similar sensibility to the work of Yiadom-Boakye (a former collaborator) and Ojih Odutola, Bonner does not let her politically informed practice obscure her search for beauty and vulnerability. Instead, Bonner relies on subtle modes of subversion to animate her work. By mining the richness of cultural expression within the African diaspora and materialising the psychic, social and historical complexity of Black male identity, Bonner configures a novel methodology for linking aesthetic expression, critical theory and political praxis. As Bonner once said “‘Beauty is a really massive part of what I’m doing… Just creating something that’s beautiful is valuable enough.”[15]



The distinct perspective that Bonner offers to the world can be further analysed by studying the body of work that accompanied one of her most recent collections, Des Hommes Et Des Dieux; namely, the short film, Finding Saint (2018), and a collaborative event in London at 5 Carlos Place, which I argue is an instance of performance art. The most recent collection, like most of Bonner’s other collections, began with an extended period of conceptual research, this time focused on the Caribbean and its unique positioning as a site of social, cultural, political and racial creolisation. For Des Hommes Et Des Dieux, Bonner probes how this active site of multiplicity is reflected in the subjectivity formation of the Black [Caribbean] male. Cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, relates this idea of identity formation as a dynamic process to his own lived experience as a Jamaican colonial subject that became a diasporic and postcolonial Black British subject:

… I came to understand that identity is not a set of fixed attributes, the unchanging essence of the inner self, but a constantly shifting process of positioning. We tend to think of identity as taking us back to our roots, the part of us which remains essentially the same across time. In fact identity is always a never-completed process of becoming - a process of shifting identifications, rather than a singular, complete, finished state of being. (Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands, p. 16)

This oscillating diasporic subjectivity, a fragmented state of being linked to psychic processes of coming and going, disordering and reordering, being ‘here’ and ‘there’, being visible and invisible, paradoxically anchors and guides Bonner’s thought process. Within Finding Saint, a meditative three-and-a-half minute film produced in collaboration with American filmmaker Jordan Hemmingway, slow-moving close ups of models’ faces intercut with still shots of calm shimmering waves of the Carribean sea. Three featured models, either shown sitting in domestic interiors, standing by the beach or walking on the runway, counter the pleasure-oriented consumerist gaze by narrating their personal experiences, which, like Stuart Hall, describe a process of movement between two islands, Jamaica and the United Kingdom. Thus, like in Bonner’s images, the models reclaim their subject positions by speaking about themselves rather being spoken for. Their poetic and introspective narrations, evident in statements like “Just here, trying to decorate myself … like a flower”; “I don’t like to dream about violence and stuff because that’s not me”; and, “The sky is pretty when the night is come down and the water get bluer”, channel states of heightened self-awareness and uninhibited vulnerability that are rarely reserved for Black males, especially those speaking from a neo-colonial periphery.

Film Still from  Finding Saint  (2018)

Film Still from Finding Saint (2018)

Moreover, the mesmerising facial close-ups of the models function as a window into their active interiority, almost mirroring the dynamic nature of the ocean, which is consistently shown and heard between, and during, these physiognomic musings. The short film’s audio-visual landscape recalls the blue-tinted cinematography of Barry Jenkin’s Moonlight, another nuanced assessment of Black masculinity that employs water and the sound of waves as a motif for moments of psychic unveiling, a time to lower the faux-façade of hyper-masculine performance. Finding Saint also brings to mind John Akomfrah’s Vertigo Sea, a three-channel feature film meditating on the sea as a site of historic trauma, environmental violence and diasporic memory. In summary, within the span of a few minutes, Finding Saint employs documentary-style, first-person narration and draws on the loaded metaphoric implications of the sea to contemplate the fluid connections between movement, faith, beauty, and Blackness.

Toward the end of the short film, the models are shown commanding the runway, clothed in the collection’s nautically influenced designs – a nod to the sea-port as a “central and vibrant location” in the diasporic imaginary[16]. Perhaps the most alluring piece in the collection is the flowing silk evening shirt, complete with a sailor collar and covered in a multi-coloured print produced by the legendary African-American modernist, Jacob Lawrence. Derived from his renowned Migration series – created in 1941 and comprising sixty panels – the vibrant print depicts the millions of African Americans that migrated from the rural South to the industrial North after WWI in search of social and economic betterment[17]. Once again, one observes how Bonner’s intentional use of luxurious sartorial forms and historically informed visuals signify moments of displacement and movement – itinerant themes that figure strongly in the Black imagination and engender diasporic thinking as a valid epistemological antidote to Western ways of knowing and being.

Wales Bonner  Des Hommes Et Des Dieux  Presentation in February 2018

Wales Bonner Des Hommes Et Des Dieux Presentation in February 2018

In October 2018, Bonner presented the Des Hommes Et Des Dieux collection at 5 Carlos Place, the newest London outpost of luxury retailer, Matches Fashion. For the presentation, Bonner collaborated with a multitude of voices to express, in three-dimensional space, the active process of creolisation through its numerous cultural manifestations in the French Caribbean. During the event, contemporary jazz musicians, Moses Boyd, Ife Ogunjobi and Hypernova, proceeded through the store, choreographed by performance artist, Michael-John Harper, producing polyrhythmic, improvisational melodies that echoed through the Victorian neo-Dutch interior. Guests watched the live performance within close proximity while they ate French Caribbean food prepared by British chef, Johnnie Collins, and quaffed botanical drinks concocted by The Herball. All the while, the richly patterned textiles of visual artist and frequent collaborator, Eric N. Mack stretched from wall to ceiling, corner to corner, augmenting the intimate space that the guests mingled in. Mack’s architectonic works, which draw on the African American vernacular craft of quilt making and occupy a curious position between painting and sculpture, function (in this context at least) as a spatial commentary on cross-cultural contact – their elaborate patterning, resembling a collage of sorts, signifies the historical reality of cultural mixing that defines the current global, postcolonial moment. Within this immersive sensory experience, in which the visual, the sonic and the gastronomic reverberated with one another, Bonner and her collaborators transformed physical space into ‘Black space’; they generated a durational experience in which participants’ phenomenological relationship to the world was one directly mediated by the cultural products of the diasporic Black experience. In the process, Bonner and her collaborators temporarily localised Blackness, that amorphous thing that evades spatial fixity and instead has manifested itself historically through the spatial dispersal of African peoples.

Eric Mack & Wales Bonner installation (courtesy of Hetty Mahlich).

Eric Mack & Wales Bonner installation (courtesy of Hetty Mahlich).

This seamless merging of art and life echoes the ephemeral works associated with the Happenings and Fluxus movements, which originated with the New York avant-garde in the 1970s. Bonner’s “intermedia” approach (to borrow the term of Fluxus artist, Dick Higgins), whereby various forms of cultural production concurrently come into play, further mirrors the radical performances staged forty years prior. Viewed from this art historical lens, Bonner’s Des Hommes Et Des Dieux presentation can be interpreted as a merging of the avant-garde performance tradition and the radical Black tradition, the latter referring to the historic tendency of Black artists to simultaneously work within and subvert white Euro-American cultural traditions and aesthetic standards, giving rise to completely novel modes of artistic expression. In a sense, this tradition follows from the operatives of the diasporic strategy. Bonner herself aligns her practice with the aforementioned tradition once describing her approach as:

 … playing within the classical tradition of what people think of as luxury or elegance in the European sense, and how you can disrupt that and play with ideas about blackness within that framework – trying to interrupt the expected narratives. I guess my own background is about being within the frame and taking things from either side and creating something new within that space. (Grace Wales Bonner, quoted in Love Magazine, 2016)

A few examples of this rich lineage include: John Coltrane’s free jazz in relation to classical music; Kerry James Marshall’s paintings in relation to portraiture; Wole Soyinka’s literary style in relation to poetry and fiction; and David Adjaye’s edifices in relation to architecture.



In this essay, I have argued that Wales Bonner ought to be perceived as a contemporary art practice that voluntarily centres its cultural production within the operative mechanisms of the fashion world, not the other way round. The reader should note that this re-positioning does not necessarily derive from viewing art as superior to fashion. Rather, as Okwui Enwezor and Chike Okeke-Agulu note on the relation between ‘art’ and ‘craft’, these two fields operate in different “cultural economies” and “discursive circuits”[18]. Throughout my analyses, I have attempted to situate Bonner’s cultural production within the canon of art history and in relation to various critical theories, which I hope shifts the reception of Bonner’s work into an art historical discursive circuit. It is my view that a fashion lens alone cannot support the critical weight that Wales Bonner’s transdisciplinary approach brings to contemporary visual culture.

Further, I have argued that Bonner enacts a diasporic strategy - a Black radical method that turns European cultural codes on its head – to complicate and reimagine Blackness itself, by privileging creolised zones of cultural contact and historical entanglement. By virtue of expanding Blackness, and more specifically Black masculinity, Bonner delineates an active, in-between space – what I have termed a ‘diasporic field’ – in which a spectrum of possibilities for Black male identification is perpetually made and remade. Echoing Bhabha, “these 'in-between’ spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood - singular or communal - that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself.”[19] Such dynamic visions of subjectivity formation materialise Stuart Hall’s notion of cultural identity as a process of “becoming”. Mbembe further elaborates:

“No Black identity exists in the form of a book of Revelation. There exists instead an identity in the process of becoming, nourished by the ethnic, geographic, and linguistic differences among Blacks and by the traditions inherited through the encounter with what Édouard Glissant calls the Tout-Monde, the All-World”. (Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason, p. 95) 

At the beginning of this essay, I also described Bonner’s practice as being composed of a broad multiplex of cultural signifiers with no theoretical foundation, no guiding metanarrative. I have come to realise that this dense, unstable network of aesthetic, textual and historical references is itself a manifestation of Bonner’s diasporic outlook. An eloquent elaboration by Hall will do here:

“The diasporic proved to be the moment when the politics of class, race and gender came together, but in a new, unstable, unstoppable, explosive articulation, displacing our understanding of social forces and of social movements. Accordingly, it does not provide us with ready-made answers or programmes but sets us new questions, which proliferate across and disturb older frames of thought, social engagements and political practice: a new ‘problem space’ indeed.” (Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger, p. 144) 

This dialectic logic of perpetual reaction, reformulation and simultaneity carves out Bonner’s in-between space and grounds her affinity for artistic collaboration. Each seasonal collection produced in the last four years can be viewed as the culmination of a ‘moment’ (to borrow Hegel’s term) in a myriad of conceptual continuums; each collection revealing a diverse body of work that is produced by various authors and is situated within this ‘diasporised’ concept space. One thus observes a mirroring between the multiplicity of Blackness that Bonner offers to contemporary visual culture and the multiplicity of artistic perspectives that engender her cultural production. Despite the seemingly deliberate obscuring of singular authorship, clear conceptual links emerge between Bonner’s disparate collaborative artistic involvements that demonstrate her ability to ‘speak through others’, giving rise to a cohesive yet versatile artistic vision.

Lastly, despite Bonner’s demonstrated socio-political awareness, beauty, elegance and softness remain primal sensibilities that mitigate oft-adopted postmodern strategies capitalising on pessimism, irony and the grotesque. The Black men centred in her short films, runway presentations and photographic editorials maintain a prized aura of grace, self-assuredness and mystique. They are necessarily of this world. In fact, they came into being because of it, borne out of the imperial violence that catalysed and gave shape to modernity. But at the same time, these men exist ‘elsewhere’. They exist outside of time, within a liminal space, external to the world as we know it. Thus, Grace Wales Bonner has generated a unique ontological horizon for the Black male. Indeed, she has created a “new real”[20].


Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 1994

Okwui Enwezor and Chike Okeke-Agulu, Contemporary African Art Since 1980, Durham: Duke University Press, 2009

Frantz Fanon, Ziauddin Sardar, Homi K. Bhabha and Charles Lam Markmann, Black Skin, White Masks. London: Pluto Press, 1986

Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017

Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason. Translated by Laurent Dubois. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017

Kobena Mercer, Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.

Richard Powell, Black Art: A Cultural History 2nd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002


[1] Grace Wales Bonner quoted in “In Conversation with Grace Wales Bonner for LOVE14 by Murray Healy”, Love, 2016.

[2] Stuart Hall, Familiar Stranger: A Life Between Two Islands. Durham: Duke University Press, 2017, p. 16.

[4] Grace Wales Bonner, “Grace Wales Bonner In Conversation with Kelsey Lu,” i-D, 2016.

[5] Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason. Translated by Laurent Dubois. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017. p. 111.

[6] Grace Wales Bonner quoted in interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, “Interview with Grace Wales Bonner,” Numero, 2017. 

[7] Wales Bonner, Ebonics: Further reading

[8] Grace Wales Bonner, “Grace Wales Bonner In Conversation with Kelsey Lu,” i-D, 2016.

[9] Grace Wales Bonner, “Grace Wales Bonner’s New Vision of the Black Male Identity”, i-D, 2015.

[10] Grace Wales Bonner quoted in “Discovery: Wales Bonner”, Interview, 2015

[11] Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason, p. 129

[12] Achille Mbembe, Critique of Black Reason, p. 43

[13] Ibid.: p. 37; 181

[14] Owen Christoph, “Queering Form: (Dis)ordering the Distribution of The Sensible through the Realm of Aesthetics,” 2018

[15] Grace Wales Bonner quoted in “In Conversation with Grace Wales Bonner for LOVE14 by Murray Healy”, Love, 2016.

[16] Wales Bonner, Des Hommes Et Des Dieux: Further Reading

[17] Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series (

[18] Okwui Enwezor and Chike Okeke-Agulu, Contemporary African Art Since 1980, Durham: Duke University Press, 2009, p.12

[19] Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, 1994

[20] Wales Bonner, Malik: Further Reading

Cover photograph by Jamie Morgan for Ezekiel Collection