Reading time:

a BREAdTH apart

a BREAdTH apart - part of the Black Lives Matter Mural Trail

Sekai Machache (with face masks designed by Fiona Powell)

Exhibition run: 18 September to 30 October 2020 (inclusive of Black History Month)


Breadth definitions:

  • breadth as in the distance or measurement from side to side of something: width
  • breadth of experience
  • A piece of cloth or standard of full width

The title came from Fiona: “The idea of space and keeping distance and wearing masks to keep the breadth apart from each other.”

Sekai: “a BREAdTH apart gives it some extra dimension as well by working with the letters the phonetics of the word become kind of stilted and it’s in keeping with the 2 metre gap. We’re all living with that very slight but necessary feeling of discomfort when wearing the mask and limiting physical contact.”

Fiona: “Thinking about what it means to stand together side by side with space in-between. Respectful solidarity, the separation and loneliness paired with gathering together for a better future. Necessary Discomfort.

Necessary Discomfort also relates to the feeling of discomfort felt by White people when discussing race: “Habitus maintains our social comfort and helps us regain it when those around us do not act in familiar and acceptable ways…Thus, white fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress in the habitus becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves…These behaviours, in turn, reinstate white racial equilibrium.”

― Robin Di Angelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

Artist's description:

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an almost decade long protest movement starting in the U.S in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Since then, BLM has grown into a movement that highlights the precarity and vulnerability that Black people face on a daily basis at the hands of anti-Black systems globally.

As we march the streets shouting protest slogans like ‘No Justice, No Peace’, we mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Belly Mujinga, Steven Lawrence, Sheku Bayoh, the Fallen and displaced of Grenfell and most recently in Glasgow, Badreddin Abadlla Adam and Mercy Baguma.

BLM as a movement extends far beyond police brutality into every aspect of Black lives. It is important to understand the ways in which systemic anti-Blackness affects the quality of life, access to adequate healthcare and life expectancy of Black people.

Reports on the COVID-19 pandemic have shown us that Black and Asian communities in the UK have been made disproportionately vulnerable to this virus and so in many ways the call to citizens to wear a mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus must become yet another aspect of the BLM movement.

This exhibition presents 2 interpretation posters and 16 portraits of Black people based in Scotland wearing face masks designed in collaboration with artist and Dundee local Fiona Catherine Powell. The masks were made using a collection of vibrantly coloured African fabrics. By choosing to have the participants wear brightly patterned masks I am advocating the importance of wearing face masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 whilst highlighting the relationship between systemic racism and healthcare.

We stand in solidarity with Black people around the world. We are imploring everyone to understand that All Lives cannot matter as long as some of us continue to be excluded from the “All”.

Sekai Machache © 2020 Photography: @sekaimachache

Masks designed by Fiona Powell:

“I love working with textiles, how they drape and form around the body. As a bespoke corset and dress maker, I found my clients usually came to me with similar requests. They wanted their corset to fit, to reflect them. Taking the time to get to know and listen to them makes sewing have such a beautiful intimacy. Something mass produced garments won’t have, a care aspect.

When masks started being one of the best tools to help us navigate through the pandemic, I wanted to start making them with the same flare of fitting well with a personal touch. Mask wearing has become a symbol as well as a tool, a sign of respecting and protecting each other. Sekai’s vast range of colourful African style fabrics are such a pleasure to work with. The fabrics make such beautiful and visually rich masks that to me are like eye candy. Seeing the intricate patterns and vivid colours is such a breath of fresh air in a climate that is so stifling. I want to contribute all my skills and knowledge to this. Helping to keep each other safe.”

Face Masks: @feefelarouge