Exposure Asks: celebrating different cultures and identities

January 23, 2020

L-R: Aisha, Brandon, Zara, Rianna, Hannah and Maddy

Exposure asks young people at Woodhouse College to delve into their diversity

One third of Londoners are foreign-born, and over 300 languages are spoken, more than any other city in the world. Young Londoners may feel different because of their colour, religion, ethnic origin or nationality, including if they are white British.

There may also be stigma due to their sexuality, gender identity, learning difficulty, disability, mental-health issue – or simply because they don’t relate to ‘mainstream’ culture.

Scroll down and use the slider tool to see how we responded, and to view relevant thoughts and facts we wanted to share. The images on the left show how we felt, while the images on the right provide information on each issue.

Without music, life would Bb flat! — by Aisha Mauthoor

At my aunt’s wedding in Mauritius, the exhilarating sounds of Sega filled the streets and Sega dancers twirled around freely in their vibrant skirts to traditionally celebrate a joyous event. The atmosphere created was upbeat and euphoric as the community joined in the celebration.

Sega is one of the major culminations of musical genres and dance styles in Mauritius, alongside Jazz and the Blues. Its purpose is to transcend the heartaches of life by expressing desire for joy and happiness.

Its core instruments include the maravanne (type of rattle), the ravanne (type of drum), a triangle alongside vocals. The maravanne often contains sand from the local beach.

During the 1700s, Le Morne Mountain was a refuge for escaped slaves. At the foot of the mountain, grew a banyan tree that became a place of celebration. These congregations were originally called ‘White Bean Parties’ because the maravanne was filled with white beans to make music. The escaped slaves originated from multiple African countries, including Seychelles and Madagascar. A plaque now marks Le Morne Mountain as the birthplace of Sega.

The women’s costume pays homage to 18th century fashions which mainly consisted of white petticoats and colourful skirts.

Many singers had thought of creating English versions of Sega songs but later resolved not to so as to preserve the uniqueness and cultural richness of the local music of Mauritius.

An example of how Sega transmits soulful messages can be found in the song, ‘Mo Fami Peser’ by Cassiya. This track gives an idea of how life has evolved for the black indentured labourer post-slavery. It tells how life as a fisherman becomes more difficult as the seas become more polluted and even though they tried to find a normal city job, they still prefer the peaceful life of a fisherman.

As a dance, Sega originated from ritual performances in Madagascar. The main components are a rhythmic swaying of the hips which always start slow and gentle before becoming more upbeat and energetic. If you hear “En bas” (down), you momentarily lower your body as if doing the limbo.

I still view Sega as sanctuary in contrast to the harsh pressure of reality.

Rejoice in non-binary identity — by Matty Reynolds

Non-binary is simply an umbrella term used to describe a person who feels as though they don’t belong in the gender binary (male or female). It could also mean they identify with a gender different from the one they were assigned at birth. Some non-binary people are referred to as ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’.

Although many people struggle with challenges presented by a search for their identity, finding a destination is often life changing.

Recently, my sibling Eliza told me that they fall under the non-binary umbrella. They have been on a long and difficult journey with who they are, which has affected their mental health. For Eliza, discovering non-binary as a gender identity was something that made sense and provided great comfort and stability.

My sibling has been able to confide in me about what being non-binary means for them, which has strengthened our relationship massively. I love exploring something new and Eliza loves speaking openly about something that has changed their life.

Gender is not taboo, it is beautiful, and every individual deserves to be celebrated.

Organ of political resistance — by Brandon Zvobgo

I was born in Zimbabwe, and lived there until I was eight, when we moved to north London in 2010. Despite political turmoil, Zimbabwe is a beautiful African country, and its people are vibrant and hardworking. My childhood was filled with lots of outside adventures and good food.

Since working with Exposure, the music of Thomas Mapfumo has come to my attention. He is known as ‘The Lion of Zimbabwe’, due to his courage, conviction and passion. He sings and makes music about the everyday problems around him, like poverty and hunger, resonating especially with the indigenous people of Zimbabwe. Mapfumo was the creator of Chimurenga, meaning ‘to fight or struggle’, which was a local genre of politically charged popular music.

In the 1970s, Mapfumo’s music fought for justice and freedom, during the liberation struggle from white minority rule, which brought Mr Mugabe to power. The song ‘Hokoyo!’ (meaning ‘Watch Out!’) was banned from the state-controlled radio in 1979. His songs are weighted with subliminal, yet aggressive messages, with lyrics like “Mothers, send your sons to war”.

Mapfumo’s music empowered many Zimbabwean civilians to deviate from the corruption of their government. His popularity made the government nervous and he was sent to prison. Many people kept listening to the music from The Lion of Zimbabwe and large demonstrations were held to protest against his arrest. After three months, Mapfumo was released from prison.

Mapfumo has lived in exile in the United States for the last 20 years but returned to Zimbabwe to perform again in April 2018. His musical repertoire continues to highlight corruption and social unrest. The power of his music, with its mighty messages about the fight for liberty and raising awareness of social injustice, are so inspiring to me.

I admire Thomas Mapfumo, The Lion of Zimbabwe so much and hope to witness the continuation of his music. His legacy is unmatched. I would love to follow in his footsteps. Mapfumo is still a key player in Zimbabwe and has paved the way to fundamental changes in our human rights!

Family fusion, cultural collaboration – by Hannah Gordon

I am immensely proud of my Caribbean heritage. My trio of Caribbean islands Dominica, Grenada and Jamaica have formed a massive part of my life. There is very little I find more enjoyable than dancing around the house with my mum and little sister blasting the latest and greatest of Caribbean Soca.

However, I am also able to embrace my British identity. Besides the stereotypical traits of being great at queuing and enjoying bargains I love classic British literature. My admiration of writers such as Jane Austen and my all-time favourite, Shakespeare is a testament to my sense of closeness with my British identity.

Additionally, I have cousins who are half Japanese, Indian and English and so I have always been around people of different cultures and backgrounds. One Christmas my cousins from Japan came and it was interesting to see exactly what a fusion of cultures looked like. I was given some beautiful Japanese ‘washi’ paper which I used for my mini art projects. Although only a small token it made me realise the diversity within my own family where little British souvenirs could be exchanged for traditional Japanese materials. My family is a ‘cultural collaboration’.

Dive deep into Barbados – by Rianna Garner-Domer

Barbados; the island of wonder!

Barbados is a beautiful Caribbean island, with clear, calm waters and pink-golden sands.

There are many hidden gems across the island. One of the most prominent, I think, is the Crop Over festival.

Crop Over was initially called ‘harvest home’. It originated as a celebration to mark the end of the yearly sugar cane harvest, and took place on the plantations during slavery in 1687.

Crop Over has since blossomed into the colourful, lively festival it is today, lasting three months, from June to August.

The festival creates an exuberant atmosphere reflecting local live with energetic Calypso and Soca (the Soul of Calypso) music. Dynamic dancers wearing sequin costumes decorated with jewels and feathers flood the streets.

Vibrant indigenous art and crafts are on exhibit and it’s a great time to get an authentic taste of local produce. Fishcakes, macaroni pie, flying fish and salted cod with hot pepper are some of the traditional dishes on offer.

The finale of the festival is called Grand Kadooment Day, and is a national holiday. Costume bands playing Bajan music dance and sing with enthusiasm to the backdrop of the festival’s most spectacular fireworks.

My first memory of Crop Over was when I was visiting my grandparents in Barbados. The whole island was filled with excitement and anticipation of this truly amazing celebration that brings everyone together. I arrived at the start of the street parade and was quickly and totally engulfed by the music, sweet smells and good vibes.

Crop Over really is one of those events where, if you go with the flow, you will have some of the most memorable experiences of your life. In the same day you could go from watching fabulous fireworks on the beach, to seeing Rihanna dancing on top of a pickup truck.

Crop Over is definitely one of the greatest street festivals ever!

Here in London, UK, the best street festival is the Notting Hill Carnival. For a place which is not known for being tropical, the energy and vibes I’ve experienced there, are truly authentic.

Both celebrations are not ones to miss.

no work found

Other work

Donate via PayPal

Exposure is an award-winning youth communications charity giving young people in north London a voice.

Please support us to continue our work. Thank you.