Love of Culture is a platform to explore and celebrate art and literature across all forms, highlighting creators from Africa, the Caribbean and the diaspora. Bad Form spoke with Victoria Nzeribe, founder and curator of the project, to learn more about the platform.
* What inspired you to set up Love of Culture?
I have always loved reading and discussing the themes of books, poems and other literary texts with others but never really had the regular space of group to do that with. I also love Art - across all forms - and found myself going to galleries, exhibitions, talks and theatre productions alone, which is absolutely cool (and I still love doing this) but it's also great going with others- to explore ideas and perspectives. One of my friends -Daniel Bailey who is an amazing Director (Unknown Rivers, Blue/Orange to name just 2), Community Asset and all round great human- nudged me to set up a book club when I started posting mini book reviews on Instagram. I laughed at the time.. but it really did spark something in me... a few months later Love of Culture was born- with the desire to explore, examine and celebrate art and literature - with a focus on creators and innovators from Africa, the Caribbean and the Diaspora -whose voices are so easily ignored within Western societies- but are some of the most important purveyors of social commentary, history and culture we have!
* Did you find support quickly? When did you realise that your idea really connected to people?
I definitely believe in the power of reciprocity and starting Love of Culture has really deepened that notion for me. I had the launch at my local bookstore and iconic community resource- New Beacon Books- with friends and family in May 2018. I managed to rope in some of my talented poetic friends and 28 of us indulged in an evening of readings, spoken word, music and good company. The feedback was so good and a firm suggestion was to "keep going with this". So I did. Setting up the Instagram page was a great tool - bringing both a visual art element and an amazing way to connect with writers, artists, creators and to build an online community.
With this being a side project/passion, time has been extremely limited but I’ve reached out to individuals who I respect and genuinely want to celebrate and have been truly honoured to have had some brilliant literary guests at the book club and to hold it in spaces such as the Bush Theatre which is our current home! I am always still surprised at the overwhelming positive feedback both from guest authors and attendees- it really does push me to keep growing as a platform.
* Do you think there really is a wider push at the moment to move towards more diverse writers and stories?
I do think there is a push to encourage and highlight more diverse writers, creatives and stories across literature and the Arts. I'm encouraged to see bookstores like Waterstones and Foyles stocking wider ranges of narratives from our communities- along with traditional publishing houses such as Penguin and Walker Books making space for new voices, and institutions like the Young Vic and Bush Theatre enabling powerhouses such as Kwame Kwei-Armah and Lynette Lynton to create magic in those spaces.
But there could and should be more opportunities like this.. Personally speaking, I like the FUBU approach- For Us By Us- because while we wait for change to come about within the traditional whiter literary establishments - we can create our own. Enter Merky Books, Jacaranda Books, OWN IT London and most recently A Quick Ting On: they are doing amazing and important things in this sphere. There is definitely an appetite for it – as there always has been in truth- and so we must continue to do for ourselves what we know can be done.
* Is there an innate problem labelling any stories as ‘diverse’ or ‘minority-led’? Should they instead be considered as part of the wider canon?
Our stories should definitely be considered part of the wider canon as they are just as integral to the fabric of this society as any other. However, we have to acknowledge that within western societies- the African diasporic contributions to modern day life, history and culture itself are for the most part erased, or just serving the single narrative. Therefore, owning, defining and highlighting our stories becomes that much more important- especially within the context of art and literature.
* So far you have hosted book clubs, a creative project for teenagers, and collaborated with King’s College London for a big exhibition for Black History Month, where would you like to see Love of Culture go next?
I would really love to develop the art curation side of things. I absolutely love it! I have curated 3 exhibitions with Kings College over the past 18 months and collaborated with some really exciting artists. I would love to continue this as a key strand of Love of Culture- to showcase the enormous talents of the African diaspora. The book club author list for 2020 looks great so far (!!) and I would love to expand on the socials element - more theatre trips, gallery visits and poetry nights! There is actually tons I would love to do to be honest but I’m pacing myself. Working on the funding proposals so watch this space!
Who (or what) inspires you at the moment? People, books, websites etc.
I have so many inspirations it will be difficult to narrow down to be honest.....!
People: Right now I am celebrating my friends and their achievements, so many dope women and men that are excelling in their work, personal lives and journeys of healing and transformation. I can’t name them all. But they know who they are.
Another person who really inspires me is Nadu Placca - she is a global events and experience architect and founder of The Zoo events management. I think she’s doing amazing things as a woman, a mother and for the culture.
Books wise- again, there are so many fantastic books and poetry collections- too many to name! Freedom from the Streets - Robyn Travis, Mask Off - JJ Bola, Galaxy Walk - Shareefa Energy, Girl Woman Other - Bernadine Everisto, Black Listed - Jeffrey Boakye.
One person who I have deep admiration for is Derek Owusu. I have just finished his new book That Reminds Me - and each time I read something by him or have the pleasure in meeting with him - I am reminded how important and beautiful his stories are - for us all. His writing will blow you away and his honesty in covering topics including mental health, self-harm, vulnerability and identity are powerfully moving.