Tanoa Sasraku (Visual Arts, 2021)Tanoa Sasraku - O'Pierrot (still)

Tanoa Sasraku

Fellow in 2021 for Visual Arts

Across the past ten months, the £10,000 Arts Foundation Futures award Fellowship has transformed my career as a visual artist in myriad ways. From the effect that such a substantial and sudden injection of capital has had on my mental wellbeing, providing me for the first time since leaving home with a solid, financial safety net, to the sense of validation and boost in confidence that the accolade of becoming a fellow has afforded me.

Read Tanoa Sasraku's testimonial

Tanoa Sasraku examines the intersections of her identity as a young, mixed-race, gay woman raised in Plymouth, and the endeavors to draw these senses of self together as one in 21st century England. Her practice shifts between filmmaking, drawing and flag-making, juxtaposing and performing British, Black, Ghanaian and queer cultural histories in her navigation of self.

Sasraku’s flags are inspired by the visual and material structure of the Fante Asafo war flags of coastal Ghana, which the artist’s paternal ancestors fabricated in resistance to British colonial rule. Her own flags map the story of ecological cycles in Dartmoor. The presence of her figure – as a woman of colour – against the sublime Devon landscape throws into question ideas of “deep” England and what it means to claim ownership over the rural.

Her video works examine the presentation of black and brown people on stage and on camera throughout the past century, with a focus on the Harlem Renaissance and minstrel theatre – specifically the caricature of Jim Crow. Combined with her interest in Kenneth Anger, Jean Cocteau and Federica Fellini, Sasraku brings her sculptural works into the realm of costume, retelling the story of Pierrot the pantomime clown, this time telling her own story. This is the first in a canon of Black, fairytale-horror short films.