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What it means to be a minority artist in 2021

Posted on 24 Mar 2021

Inspired by Linda Nochlin's 'Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?', we set up a writing competition in collaboration with Student Art Pass, inviting students to submit non-fiction pieces on what it means to be a minority artist or creative in 2021. They offered new and subversive insights. Here we are excited to share the winning piece by Babar Suleman.

What it means to be a minority artist in 2021

It means


marginalising yourself in order to gain politically or strategically but then suffering from the violence of self-representing that way because I’m not brown under my skin,

looking at privileged artists and wondering when they managed to find the time and stability to rack up so many exhibitions and publications when you were trying to seek asylum or earn a living in just the past few years,

paying four times more as an international art student in the country that built its wealth from colonising yours,

being assigned white examiners who are only able to assess your art in Euro-centric ways,

having to deal with the expectation that anything you do artistically is about your identity. As if it isn’t if you don’t explicitly make it about it,

always having to experience a mild level of stress looking at the boxes of the monitoring form and having to construct yourself according to it,

looking at the world as a bleak place because you will never be afforded certain opportunities,

looking at the world as a blessed place because so many who come from your background have it far worse,

feeling the burden of reluctance and resistance anytime you have to research something in the white or western canon,

having your fiction grouped as ‘LGBTQ’ and not just ‘literary’,

contending, in all its complicated complexity, with the notion of the phrase ‘minority artist’ when others can just be ‘artists’,

standing out in a crowd, uncomfortably so

wanting to not be seen


But it also means


wanting to be seen

standing out in a crowd, gloriously so

watching white people squirm from their guilt and laughing at it, sometimes with them,

making radical joy a way of being, knowing that you will always have something unique to offer,

understanding suffering on a core level and not being easily fazed,

notgivingafuck about white tears,

not having to take this essay or any competition more seriously than it deserves because you have so much other pressing stuff to deal with in life


To be a minority artist or creative in 2021 means to live as a paradox, but having to continuously negate one half of you.



Babar Suleman is an artist and writer, reading for a practice-led DPhil in Fine Art at the University of Oxford. They are a Fulbright scholar and graduated with an MFA from Parsons School of Design.