International Women’s Day 2021

To celebrate International Women's Day 2021, we’re highlighting the work of two forthcoming artists-in-residence, Sherie Sitauze and Sonia E Barrett. Both artists have been invited to respond to the College’s African Collection as part of the Whose Heritage? research project.

Reflecting this year’s International Women’s Day 2021 campaign theme #ChooseToChallenge, the Whose Heritage? residencies invite Sherie and Sonia to question the power structures of colonial histories and disrupt the Eurocentric perspective that has informed the College’s displays until now.

Sherie Sitauze

“I #ChooseToChallenge the gaze imposed on non-western peoples and the narratives which have been created by colonialism.”

Sherie Sitauze’s practice is an on-going and ever-evolving exploration of oral storytelling. She sees this as a vehicle for learning, cultivating, and merging narratives. Her work is concerned with knowledge-sharing and the implications of this in current times. Sherie critically considers the metaphysics of past, present and future, questioning conceptions of linear history, particularly in relation to the narratives of non-western communities.

“For the black person, the traumas of the past, far and near, will always persist into the present – and more than likely extend themselves into the future*.

For me, it begins around 1270AD: the Mapungubwe Kingdom and VhaVenda of southern Africa. I am in a constant cycle of coming to terms with my ancestral past while simultaneously seeking it in order to mobilise it within the present day. All the while being a long-term resident on this very foreign, western and British soil. Soil I have conditioned myself into understanding as one of my homes since the age of six.

My practice is an on-going and ever-evolving exploration of oral storytelling as a vehicle for the learning, cultivation and merging of narratives, as well as the sharing of knowledge, and proposing this in current time. I also simultaneously seek to critically consider the metaphysics around past, present and future; the way in which history is not as linear in the way we naturally conceive and summarise it as being, particularly in relation to the narratives of non-western communities.

*s/o to Jacques Derrida for putting into words feelings I once did not know words existed for.”

Sonia E Barrett

"I #ChooseToChallenge what is expected of me as a black identifying female artist."

Sonia E Barrett performs composites of plants, animals, elements and people to create interventions that presents their objectification and commodification. The work encourages us to think about how to change perceptions of phenomena in ‘nature’ that are often perceived as a given. Sonia’s practice creates new questions where there was formerly a certainty rooted in the hegemony of normative European values. 

Born in the UK, of Jamaican and German parentage, Sonia E Barrett grew up in Hong Kong, Zimbabwe, Cyprus and the UK. She studied literature at the University of St Andrews, Scotland and completed her MFA at Transart Institute Berlin/New York. 

Her sculptural practice includes place-making with a view to assembling communities under the threat of climate in order to (re)claim space as well as instituting permanently.

Sonia is a MacDowell Fellow and has been recognised by the Premio Ora prize, NY Art-Slant showcase for sculpture and the Neo Art Prize. She has exhibited with the National Gallery of Jamaica; 32º East, Kampala, Uganda; The Heinrich Böll Institute Germany; The British Library; The Museum of Derby; and the Kunsthaus Nürnberg. Her work has been shown at a number of galleries including the OCCCA California; NGBK Berlin; Tete Berlin; The Format Contemporary in Milan and Basel; and Rosenwald Wolf Gallery, Philadelphia.

Her works have been published in the International Review of African American Art; Black History 365 Journal; Kunstforum International; Protocollum; ELSE journal; and the Contemporary & Platform. She is a co-initiator of the AIPCC in Bavaria.

About International Women's Day

International Women’s Day provides an important moment to raise awareness for women's equality, launch new initiatives and action, celebrate women's achievements, and call for gender parity gains.

The day is celebrated and supported globally by industry, governments, educational institutions, community groups, professional associations, women's networks, charities and non-profit bodies, the media and more.

Collectively, every person and all groups can make a difference within their sphere of influence by taking concrete action to help build a more gender equal world. From small powerful grassroots gatherings, to large-scale conferences and events - International Women's Day is celebrated everywhere. It is a big day for inspiration and change.

#IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge 

Residencies at West Dean College

The College’s Artist-in-Residence programme provides professional artists, writers, makers, and researchers the opportunity to work onsite for a period of one to three weeks. It also enriches student learning, through access to practicing professionals with resident artists offering tutorials and workshops. Partnership residencies include collaborative projects with the De La Warr Pavilion and New Writing South.

Sherie Sitauze and Sonia E Barrett’s residencies were developed in collaboration with Outside In, a national charity that aims to provide a platform for artists who face significant barriers to the art world due to health, disability, social circumstance or isolation. The residency programme is currently on hold and will commence when the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions are lifted.

For more information: