I met up with visual artist and costume maker Lesley Asare to talk arts activism and her upcoming projects including the Head Wrap Diaries – a dance and art series that celebrates versatile reflections of beauty among women.
More recently, her macramé dresses formed part of the exhibition Children of the Gap, which explored the space cultivated by people living in Britain but originally from Africa. It was part of an acclaimed month of screenings and discussions surrounding cultural duality at The Centre For Better Health in Hackney that ran until April 25.
She also runs her own creative workshops called I Shape Beauty alongside Indigo Williams. Lesley is an artist sent to empower women of colour.
What does art give you that nothing else can?
For me, art is how I connect with myself, as it enables me the space to ask questions and explore concepts with a depth that common conversation or research cannot reach. Art is the way that I express myself when I haven’t found the words. Its ability to bring people together and heal is just amazing.
In what ways are you able to be an activist through your art? How important is this?
I run an art collective called ‘I Shape Beauty’ alongside the spoken-word educator and poet, Indigo Williams. For us ‘beauty’ is a concept rooted in freedom, sisterhood, consciousness, health and wellbeing.
Our work involves creating workshops and creative arts to engage with groups of women of colour. We focus on empowering women to reclaim who they are, to define who they are and to own who they are by offering up a gateway for them to connect to their personal power.
When did you realise that you wanted to work in the arts and what was it like explaining that to your family?
That’s a good question. As lame as this sounds, I grew up being creative. When I was eight I used to draw these little dresses and say, ‘Mum when I get older I’m going to be a designer and my brand will be called “Lesare”’ and she would simply say, ‘Okay’. Ha ha. I always studied creative subjects in school, so my interests evolved but never really changed.
Art is something they always saw that I was interested in.
I think it was a journey of acceptance for my family though. Art is something they always saw that I was interested in pursuing and they were supportive, though initially they may have lacked a little understanding in terms of how I’d make any money! Every time a door opens I think they believe I can make a career out of being creative a little bit more.
Who would you like to collaborate with and why?
That is really hard! I’m really inspired by the work of Pia Love. She’s an amazing woman who has a truly beautiful spirit. She’s recently been filming herself visiting different countries and learning a new dance in every place. I really admire how connected she is to her spirituality.
What are you up to next?
I have two upcoming projects that I am incredibly excited about!
This July and August I will be collaborating with director, performer and writer, Nihaarika Negi and a team of multidisciplinary artists to develop a performance exploring home and belonging and uses Caryl Churchill’s 7 Jewish Children as a point of departure. This will be taking place in Mumbai, India.
Later this year I will be creating paintings for Uchenna Dance‘s Head Wrap Diaries Art installation that celebrates versatile reflections of beauty among women. The installation runs alongside The Head Wrap Diaries performance; an immersive-interactive dance and theatre production that uses comedy to explore women, beauty, hair and culture and will be taking place on September 19 and 20 at The Place, London and October 18 at The Lowry in Manchester.
Find out more about I Shape Beauty here