Written by Skin Deep

Image by Caleb Femi

28.02.17

Caleb Femi’s film-poem decentres the white gaze in the portraiture of black British working-class faces, playing with and subverting the construction of black facial features as something sinister: a Hollywood-ised alien threat, an omen of destruction, etc.

With delicate and seductive silky sheets billowing like nationless flags behind tenderly shot subjects, the film proclaims the beauty in black British faces, even as the recited words paint facial features in terms that range from the mundane to the monstrous, all overlaid with the dreamlike outro to Outkast’s Prototype.

Femi writes: “Although the demonisation of ‘black’ features in modern aesthetics is a global conversation, this project focuses specifically on how that plays out in a British working-class context, one whose nuances I know well. The film-poem is a deconstruction of the white gaze; it releases the black British face from the perceived need for validation from that external gaze.”