Black Artists of Wales

BHM | 25 Inspirational Black Artists of Wales

As 2017’s Black History Month draws to a close, Wales Arts Review takes the opportunity to celebrate figures working in the arts in Wales today, people whose work and ambitions we greatly admire, and many of whom have featured in our pages over the last five years years.

Black History Month Wales engages, educates and empowers individuals, community groups and Wales-wide communities in acknowledging and recognising the contribution that the African Diaspora has made in the history of Wales’ economic and cultural development. It also allows the wider community to take part, learn and celebrate together to promote understanding and share our global history.”

As with everything Wales Arts Review does, however, this is a starting point for conversations, and is by no means a definitive list. If you have names to add who have not been included in this 25, then please either name them on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, or email with your suggestions. Help us make this list grow.

Patience Agbabi (poet) grew up to adoptive parents in North Wales, after being born in London to Nigerian parents. Her collection, Telling Tales, was nominated for the Wales Book of the Year Roland Mathias Poetry Award in 2015, and the Ted Hughes Award for New Poetry in 2014. Agbabi began performing on the London club circuit in 1995. She has cited among her influences Janis Joplin, Carol Ann Duffy, Chaucer, and various aspects of contemporary music and culture.

Rakie Ayola (actor) is a Welsh actress, who first rose to prominence in the lead role of the 1993 Jeanette Winterson’s Great Moments in Aviation, but after becoming a familiar face through her role in Holby City, perhaps found a whole new global audience in 2017, when Ayola took over the role of Hermione Granger in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Rakie Ayola - Black Artists of Wales
Rakie Ayola

Baby Queens (band) are a Cardiff five piece: Monique B (vocals), Cara Elise (vocals, guitar), Estelle Ios (vocals, bass), Vanity Jay (vocals, guitar), Ruth Vibes (vocals, guitar). They have received rave reviews for their debut eponymous album, have been Guardian band of the week, and were nominated for the Welsh Music Prize 2017.

Liara Barrusi (dancer) is the founder and Artistic Director of Jukebox Collective, a creative company focused on the delivery of the highest quality street dance education, performance and consultancy. Jukebox is recognised as a leading company for street dance in the UK. Liara has been involved in dance for over 20 years, with extensive experience of choreographing and mentoring young dancers. Highlights of her career include creating the Jukebox Juniors, an under 16s dance crew who enjoyed considerable TV fame. Jukebox still has a particular emphasis on the training and professional development of young people, as well as producing high class work for stage and screen.

Black Artists of Wales - Liara Barussi
Liara Barussi

E.M. Bless’On III is a poet and workshop leader whose latest poem can be found here on Wales Arts Review. His latest collection, Bleeding Ink, is available now. You can find out more about his work here.

Black Artists of WalesAnthony Campbell (designer and photographer). After studying at Cardiff College of Art in the early 1970s, Anthony pursued a graphic design course at Newport College of Art. Since leaving Cardiff in 1980 his career has spanned everything from corporate design to animation for feature films such as Hackers and Event Horizon. He currently works as a freelance designer and motion graphics artist in London.

Simon Campbell (photographer) was a founder member of Butetown Photography Group and the Black Film and Video Work­shop in Wales, which produced several films that were screened at film festivals around the UK. When Simon and a group of other like-minded locals set up the Cultural and Educational Training Centre in the Bay, creativity was high on the agenda. As well as providing social and legal advice, they ran classes in photography, pottery, art, sewing, woodworking, batik, cookery and basket weaving. Simon’s creative drive led him to a new vocation in the late 1990s, designing and crafting stone-set silver jewellery at his shop, Debris, in Pontcanna, Cardiff.

June Campbell-Davies (dancer, choreographer, film-maker).

Black Artists of Wales

Eric Ngalle Charles (Writer) a poet, author, playwright and Cameroonian refugee now living in Ely, Wales. Eric’s journey in search of refuge took him from Cameroon to Russia and finally to Wales, where he now lives with his wife and daughter and where he is forging a successful writing career.

Anthony Corria (Actor) Better known as Wella, Corria has a string of praised performances of stage and screen, and can be seen in the upcoming August 012 production of Mice and Men.

Leah Crossley (artist) was our artist in residence for April this year, and you can check out her work here.

Toks Dada is a creative producer and classical music programmer. In 2010 he founded Sinfonia Newydd – a commissioning and producing company for new work by established and emerging professional composers – and served as the CEO and Creative Director until 2015. Under his leadership, Sinfonia Newydd was established as an important part of Wales’ arts sector and provided commission, training, performance, and promotion opportunities for over 40 composers.

He is a previous board member of Sinfonia Cymru and in March 2017 was announced as the new board member of WNO.

Black Artists of Wales
Toks Dada

Christina Dembenezi (actor) has worked closely over the last few years with Fio, starting out on stage in the company’s first production, SWARM, about the refugee experience, and now as assistant director on The Mountaintop.

Adeola Dewis (artist and performer)

Ali Goolyad (poet)

Kezrena James (actor) is a successful and familiar face on stage and screen, her greatest role to date was perhaps when she came home to Cardiff in 2013 to play Cassandra in Clytemnestra, Gwyneth Lewis’ reworking of the Agamemnon Greek Tragedy at the Sherman Theatre.

Kyle Legall (artist and director) has collaborated with National Theatre Wales and during his career as an animator, visual artist and theatre director. His latest project has been bringing his graphic novel, RATS, to the stage earlier this year.

Black Artists of Wales

Kyle Lima (actor) is a prolific actor currently appearing in the self-penned one man show, Heart and Soul.

Bevin Magama (storyteller)

“I am a storyteller and writer. Being a storyteller did not come to me by chance or coincidence. It was something that germinated and ripened as I grew from a small boy herding cows and goats to a young man managing crews of airmen and with huge responsibilities on my shoulders

Being a writer is something that came to me later in life.It came knocking on my door at a time of great distress, a time when I had withdrawn into myself. Click here to get to know me.”

Dami Okhiria (poet) is an exciting new voice in Welsh poetry, and is published for the first time this weekend in Wales Arts Review.

Black Artists of Wales
Dami Okhiria

Gavin Porter (artist and producer) is Creative Associate at National Theatre Wales, leading one of the company’s most significant initiatives, The Big Democracy Project.

Alexandria Riley (actor) is currently appearing in The Cherry Orchard at the Sherman in Cardiff.

Mary-Anne Roberts (singer and performer) is a performer and singer with traditional Welsh music duo Bragod.

Danica Swinton (actor) is currently appearing in Fluellen Theatre Company’s revival of Granton Street, currently on tour around Wales.

Charlotte Williams (author) is most well-known in Wales for her groundbreaking text A Tolerant Nation? Exploring Ethnic Diversity in Wales (co-edited 2nd Ed. 2015); for her award-winning memoir Sugar and Slate, which won Welsh book of the Year 2003, and for her published essays in Planet magazine. She has made numerous television and radio appearances and is a regular commentator on issues of Welsh multiculturalism. In 2007, Charlotte was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales. Charlotte is currently working in Melbourne, Australia as Professor of Social Work and Deputy Dean at RMIT University. Her home and wider family network are in north Wales and she returns home each year. You can read more about Charlotte in her Writers’ Rooms piece for Wales Arts Review from  February of this year.