Blog > Differences make us who we are

Differences make us who we are

Our next exhibition, Labels, at the Oh! Gallery (20 February – 3 March) is something truly special. It was curated not by an adult artist group or professional artist, but by students from Dagenham’s Robert Clack School, with support from their teacher Sam Norwood.

We asked Oh! volunteer blogger Thufayel Ahmed to meet up with one of the Robert Clack students, Paplu, to find out what motivated the students to invest their spare time in this special project.

What inspired you and your class to pursue a project on labels and stereotypes?
Many of my peers have been stereotyped and thought that it was an important topic to promote. We had a vote on choosing whether to do an exhibition on culture or stereotypes and this topic had the most votes and was chosen.

How do you think stereotypes affect society?
We think a large percentage of discrimination against people in this country is linked to stereotypes. For example, one may bully a person of a different ethnicity as they believe that this person is inferior to them whereas they are superior because of history and old stereotypes created by society. We believe that no one should be stereotyped or judged as we should never judge a book by its cover and we want for people to stop judging others.

How do you and your classmates feel about displaying your work in an exhibition?
We feel honoured to be displaying our work in an exhibition as we want to break the stereotype of ‘Dagenham Kids’ being unambitious, dull and uneducated. While preparing this exhibition I also found out that this stereotype is not only applied to ‘Dagenham Kids’, but also to the young generation from other areas of low overall progression rate to higher education. I personally feel very privileged to have the chance not only to be representing Dagenham but these other areas as well.

Why have you chosen Oxford House as a venue for your exhibition?
My classmates and I wanted a venue for our exhibition where we knew we would get a range of visitors, and Oxford House seemed the best place for this! Unlike many other galleries, Oxford House attracts not only art lovers or artists, but a diverse group of people, as a popular community centre not just in Bethnal Green, but in East London.

How long did you all work on your pieces for the exhibition and how did you manage to cope with this project whilst also attending school?
All our work has taken around 5 months to produce. We split our team in two groups: one was the art group and one the writing group. I know that everyone participating in this exhibition has tried their best, I also know for sure that both groups have had over 25 meetings after school until 5pm, discussing their ideas or editing work or seeing what stage everyone was at in producing their work… This was quite difficult for all of us as we had to miss quite a few revision sessions after school and leave our coursework on a hold for several subjects, but we managed to do this as this was something that all of us were passionate about.

Your project is definitely one that is inspiring. What do you hope people who attend the event can gain from the exhibition?
I personally know that there are many people in my school that do stereotype and have seen people stereotype. Once I was told by someone that ‘your kind of people are all terrorists, so you also must be one’. I remember that when I was told this I felt very hurt but I knew that that person was only trying to be funny. However one thing that people who stereotype don’t know is what the person being stereotyped feels on the inside. I want people who visit to get the chance of seeing themselves in the position of the person being stereotyped, and realise that being stereotyped is not a fun thing so that they change for the better.

Do you and your classmates have any ideas about possible future projects?
We would like to create more exhibitions about society and do workshops in schools to encourage young people not to discriminate against or stereotype. We believe that we all are different and these differences make us who we are – we all need to accept this about ourselves and others. At the end of the day, the one thing we all share is being different to one another – and this makes us all the same.

The Labels exhibition runs from 20 February – 3 March at Oh! Gallery.
A private view will be held on 2 March 6 – 8pm. All are welcome.

Thufayel Ahmed & Katharina Posavec
Oh! Interns