Written by Ben Mottershead
In a world of numerous publications and online platforms there has never been a time where accessibility and inclusivity is so important. Not only to showcase various cultures and talents around the world but also to give un heard people a voice of their own.
Enter Yellowzine. A print and online platform that centralises the artwork of ethnic minority creatives. Founded by Aisha Ayoade their aim is to amplify and inspire and is part of a contemporary movement for the progression of art by POC (People of Colour).
With our Creation to Publication event fast approaching (buy tickets here) we spoke to Aisha to find out more about yellowzine and how she kickstarted the idea.
Hey! I’m Aisha Ayoade, I’m a full-time Copywriter and also Co-Founder of an art platform called Yellowzine. Yellowzine started off as a print and online platform in 2016 centralising the visual work of UK based artists from the African, Caribbean, Asian and Hispanic diaspora. My brother Oreoluwa and I started the platform early in our careers, I was still at university at the time and he’d just graduated. But the idea, to us, felt inevitable. To us, and mainly others living here, the lack of non-white faces in the mainstream art world was painfully obvious. From galleries to museums and even magazines. So, we wanted to create a place that could house and celebrate minority ethnic artists and act, in part, like yellow pages for potential commissions and collaborations.
If you look at these thousands of smaller publications in the UK, there’s only a small - though growing - a handful of them that cater to the global south diaspora here in the UK. Other amazing platforms like Gal-dem, Azeema, Third Magazine (to name a few) are created to champion and speak to minorities. We’re currently in a climate where industries, especially creative industries are waking up to their lack of diversity and how this negatively affects their business. A lot of organisations say this to due to a lack of access to diverse talent. But really, it’s due to a lack of effort, on their part. At Yellowzine we’re trying to invalidate that excuse and make it easy.
Yeah definitely. Diversity to us isn’t just a buzzword, it’s something that affects real people and real lives and our lives. So yeah, we feel the pressure. But it’s something we try to let go of when we work with artists. Our magazine isn’t a magazine about diversity, it’s a magazine about art. We don’t seek “diverse art” (whatever that is) and in fact, we emphasise to the artists we work with to create what they want without any sort of expectations or limitations that are often imposed on them from the mainstream art world.
Put in the work. Nothing changes if nothing changes so the industry can’t carry on going through the same routes to recruitment and commissions and expect diversity to just happen. It doesn’t work like that. Look at who you’re speaking to, where are you looking for talent? And when you hire that talent, what are you doing as a company/organisation to make them feel welcome or seen? And also, at which level are you hiring them? These are all questions that people/businesses need to ask themselves. There’s no use just ticking a box because of nobody benefits.
I wouldn’t say nervous really but I’m still careful. I want people to see the value in our platform and I want them to want to contribute because they believe in what we do. I guess I’m less nervous because we got a lot more YESs than NOs the first time around, so we have more confidence in Yellowzine than we did at the very beginning.
Issa Rae once said something about networking across and not just networking up. I think in the beginning I thought I had to only speak to people who owned successful companies or were high-up in the chain. Now I’ve realised the huge value in networking with the people around us, at a similar level to us, because they’re the ones we can share a passion and a vision with.
It’s core to what we do with Night School. We tried our best to make the programme as accessible as possible. Even with our application, we tried to make it as simple and straightforward as we could. And a thing with a lot of educational schemes in this industry is that they don’t reach people that aren’t already “in the know” so a whole group of people are excluded from the conversation, let alone the scheme itself. It was our first time, so we still have lots to learn about making Night School more accessible. But yeah, accessibility is everything for us.
Doing it on the side of a full-time job can be a bit tough at times. Mustering up the energy to do work after work can be a task. But aside from that, I’d say the actual business side of things, both I and my brother are from a creative background and nowhere in our journey have we learnt what it means to run a business. We’re kind of just picking things up as we go.
I’d say, first of all, think about who your audience is and whether they want/need your platform. If there is some sort of demand, then just do it. Unless you’re doing it for purely passion reasons, then of course, again, just do it.
Also, collaboration and advice is a big thing. Reach out to as many people as you can and you’ll be surprised by the number of people willing to offer a helping hand.
I would say the graduate show for Night School, the mentorship scheme we ran. All the Night Schoolers were scattered around the 1948 NikeLab mixing and mingling and confidently sharing their work. It was a defining moment for us in terms of our vision and mission.
To help more artists reach new spaces, to make our website a lot broader and central, and to do another Night School!
How can people get involved with what you’re doing?
Follow us on Instagram/Twitter: @yellowzine
Check out our website for details on how to pitch: Yellwzine.com
Or email us directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Favourite Mag: Gal-dem/Nataal
Current favourite artist, photographer: oooo I don’t think I can pick but in the U.K. Adama Jalloh is pretty up there.
Best website for inspiration: itsnicethat, womenwho, Gal-dem.
Favourite way to relax: Painting my nails and watching trash TV
Best advice on dealing with Creative Block: I don’t think I deal it very well, I just either turn on trash tv and dull my brain for a while or if I’m working to a deadline, I’ll try and do the smallest task first to get myself in the zone.
The best podcast I’ve listened to recently: In Good Company by Otegha Uwagba.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given: To feel free to pause and breathe whenever I give talks. I learnt this at a workshop, and it’s stuck with me and helped me whenever I’m presenting.
Favourite Anime (Apparently you used to be a fan): I did! It was Bleach that got me into it, so it has to be the one I choose haha
To hear more from Aisha and what it takes to start your own magazine, alongside Virgin, It's Nice That and Stack Magazine make sure to grab yourself a ticket to our upcoming event, creation to publication on the 25th March.
You'll also be able to drop in and meet acclaimed paper manufacturers G . F Smithwho will be handing out their brand new collection book!
Tickets will go, so grab em' quick