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The Politics of Pleasure
Institute of Contemporary Arts
20 July – 9 November 2019

Courtesy of TONL, a creative company transforming stock photography by showcasing the diverse, positive and contemporary lives and identities of Black and brown people.

Building on ideas foregrounded at Fugitive Feminism in July 2018, The Politics of Pleasure is a series of Black feminist programmes exploring pleasure as a politics of refusal.

The project centres Black gender non-conforming, non-binary, trans and femme audiences and engages the research and practices of a pioneering group of visual artists, writers, fashion designers, DJ scholars, pleasure activists and other participants.

Interweaving installations, talks, performance-lectures, workshops and more, The Politics of Pleasure explores the intersections of pleasure with a range of topics including the politics of presence, power, the erotic, friendship, fashion and film.

The Politics of Pleasure Workshop (22 July 2018) investigated pleasure as fundamentally linked to Black women's humanity and generative of creativity and community. The Politics of Pleasure Family Reunion (20 July 2019) furthered explorations of pleasure in writing and movement and incorporated pleasure in food. Pleasure Genealogies (31 August – 8 September 2019) responded to the work of pleasure activist adrienne maree brown, who teaches Black womxn to trace lineages of personal pleasure by asking, ‘Who taught you to feel good?’. Weruzo Presents Sisi (9 November 2019) explored womxn’s empowerment and powerlessness through Nollywood films and fashion.

This series of programmes is curated by The Politics of Pleasure collective: PhD researcher Rita Gayle, ICA Curator of Learning Nydia A. Swaby and ICA Assistant Curator Ifeanyi Awachie.
The usage of ‘womxn’ in texts related to this programme stems from the use of the term by Politics of Pleasure participant Bernardine Evaristo in her description of the characters in her novel Girl, Woman, Other. The Politics of Pleasure programme takes this cue from Evaristo, using ‘womxn’ to explicitly include and centre self-identified women who are trans, black, and of colour. This aligns with uses of the word by black feminist collectives and organisers such as Black Girl Fest and Rhodes Must Fall to move away from language that centres white, cis identities and towards language that reflects diverse femininities. To paraphrase Crystal Paradis, the aim of this approach is to respond to the ever-evolving nature of language in the most inclusive, progressive way possible. However, it is important to acknowledge that – especially within an institutional context – the use of ‘womxn’ is not definitive; it does not and cannot speak for any community as a whole.

Saturday 9 November 2019
Weruzo presents Sisi

A half-day programme inspired by emerging womenswear brand Weruzo’s latest conceptual collection, Sisi.

Sisi explores the politics of womxn’s pleasure and power through the lenses of transactional relationships, coming-of-age processes and womxn’s empowerment in Nollywood films.

A live presentation of the collection will be accompanied by two newly commissioned written pieces by researcher Precious Oyelade and poet Momtaza Mehri.

Saturday 9 November, 2:00pm
Rethinking Runs Girls in Girls Cot
Precious Oyelade reads a new, critical essay on the 2006 Nollywood film Girls Cot and its protagonists, womxn known as ‘runs girls’.


Saturday 9 November, 4:30pm
Black Feminist Transference: On Pleasure & Power(lessness)
Momtaza Mehri presents a new essay on the slipperiness of female power and the pleasure Black womxn wring from the celebrity class.

Saturday 9 November, 7:00pm
Weruzo presents Sisi
Emerging fashion brand Weruzo presents its latest conceptual collection Sisi in the ICA Theatre.

8 September – 31 August 2019
Pleasure Genealogies

Pleasure Genealogies seeks to forge further connections between Black feminist practices, theories and art that investigate pleasure. Pleasure Genealogies looks to the Black feminist theorists who initially inspired The Politics of Pleasure Collective, including Gail Lewis, Joan Morgan and Audre Lorde, and to the inheritors of their legacies, including artist Davinia-Ann Robinson, author Bernardine Evaristo and DJ scholar Lynnée Denise. The programme is a response to the work of pleasure activist adrienne maree brown, who teaches Black women to trace lineages of personal pleasure by asking, ‘Who taught you to feel good?’ Pleasure Genealogies extends the energy, atmosphere and exploration of previous The Politics of Pleasure programmes.

Saturday 31 August, 1:00pm
A restorative studio session, led by artist Davinia-Ann Robinson, inviting women of colour to unlock a sense of agency through use of clay.

3 – 8 September
An installation by Davinia-Ann Robinson exploring power structures and pleasure, in accordance to women of colour and their relationship with pleasure.

Saturday 7 September, 1:00pm
Artist Davinia-Ann Robinson discusses her work, PLASTICISED SENSATION, an installation exploring pleasure and the structures of power surrounding the erotic for women of colour.

Saturday 7 September, 3:30pm
Bernardine Evaristo, discusses her newest novel, Girl, Woman, Other, and shares how to write about pleasure for women of colour.

Saturday 7 September, 7:00pm
DJ Lynnée Denise discusses her signature ‘DJ Scholarship’ practice through case studies from the work of Toni Morrison and Saidiya Hartman.

Saturday 20 July 2019 
The Politics of Pleasure Family Reunion

An all-day event for Black women to explore pleasure as generative of creativity and community, and as fundamentally linked to their humanity. Featuring workshops by Ama Josephine Budge and Kelechi ‘Kelechnekoff’ Okafor, and a reading group hosted by sisterwoman vegan, the reunion builds on ideas shared in the 2018 Politics of Pleasure Workshop:

Saturday 20 July, 1:00pm 
Ama Josephine Budge leads a workshop harnessing breath, free writing, mark-making and pleasure vocalisations to rest, resist, reimagine and rebuild.

Saturday 20 July, 4:00pm 
Womanist fitness instructor Kelechi ‘Kelechnekoff’ Okafor leads a dance workshop and discussion exploring twerking as empowerment.

Saturday 20 July, 5:30pm 
A curated library of influential Black literature and menu of small plates presented by soul food chef sisterwoman vegan.