If we see a Black man lying in the road, what is being asked of us? What is our instinctive response? Ṣode’s words and Akytom’s images are a call for radical empathy.
Radical empathy, a concept developed by Terri Givens, Professor of Political Science at McGill University, is more active than sympathy. It involves working to understand not just the experiences and views of others, but the origins of our own biases, in order to turn understanding into practical action for change to promote social and racial justice.
“For me, radical empathy challenges the behaviour of people. It asks the individual to look beyond themselves and care in ways that sit outside of their comfort zones. Whether that is the one person in a group of friends, or the colleague in workplace. Empathy shouldn’t be handed out in doses. A universal approach to empathy first, requires reframing.” Yomi Ṣode
Manorism, a collection of Ṣode’s poetry, was published autumn 2022 by Penguin and is available from the Museum shop while stocks last.
Yomi Ṣode is an award-winning Nigerian British writer. He is a recipient of the 2019 Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship and was shortlisted for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize 2021. His acclaimed one-man show COAT toured nationally to sold-out audiences, including at the Brighton Festival, Roundhouse Camden and the Battersea Arts Centre. In 2020 his libretto Remnants, written in collaboration with award-winning composer James B. Wilson and performed with Chineke! Orchestra, premiered on BBC Radio 3. In 2021, his play, and breathe… premiered at the Almeida Theatre to rave reviews.
Akytom is a visual artist best known for capturing the creative side of human nature. His work shows how a deep connection with his subject together with sophisticated lighting can bring out the real beauty of a person in front of the camera. Getting lost in the moment, drawing energy and inspiration from inside the room, allowing a sense of freedom to create something special make his images very unique. Through photographing people, he manifests feelings which are hard to describe in words.