Frustrated by a lack of diversity in the creative industry, Graphic Design student Thyra Bankole is working to be an empowering force for black female artists.
We believe that high-quality education for life in contemporary arts practice is the creative catalyst for personal, professional and cultural transformation, and our manifesto includes ten propositions, written by our Principal, Professor Andrew Brewerton, that added to the themes of CREATIVE LEARNING and SOCIAL JUSTICE, define our strategic plans for the future. For our new campaign, we invited thirteen current students, recent graduates and alumni to contribute their own propositions.
Craving a change of scenery, Thyra made the move from her hometown of London to study by the sea in Plymouth. We caught up with her to find out more about how she’s grown as a designer and her proposition, 'Black Girl Magic'.
Tell us about your practice as an artist, do you have a specialist or a trade?
I feel like I didn’t fully understand design until I got here. You learn a lot when you get stuck in and now I have completed two years of study I have learned how to interact with people and that has changed my practice completely. My work is more elegant and sophisticated, but still incorporates a touch of fun to reflect my personality.
What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?
To me, it means promoting and celebrating black beauty, specifically in women, at a time where the ‘me too’ movement and ‘black lives matter’ are part of everyday conversation. I have been focusing a lot of my projects on black women and black role models in the design industry. I want to encourage young black female creatives to believe that they can do whatever they want and they can be whoever they want. Coming from a place where I was the only black woman in my classes, I feel that I have to be that role model in my field.
Why did you choose to study Graphic design?
Graphic design is all about helping other people and solving problems. I come from a family of nurses, so in their field they are helping people every day, and I wanted to do that in my own way. I push myself to be the best I can be for this reason. For me, it's all about helping people and I push myself to be the best I can be. Yes, I could have gone into the medical field too but my passion is in design and my family fully supports that.
What appealed most to you about Plymouth?
Being so close to the sea and the local beaches. A few weekends ago I went to Kynance Cove and it felt like I was in Greece. It was beautiful! It is so peaceful and quiet here compare with London, and I needed that break and change of pace to find my style and focus on my practice.
What was the highlight for you of studying here?
It’s a community of creative people. The contacts I’ve made and the people I have met at Plymouth College of Art offer so much support to each other. The lecturers know who I am as a person, my specialism and my projects, which makes a huge difference. The resources have had a huge impact on my studies too, the Equipment Resource Centre, photography studios, Fab Lab Plymouth and the Print Studio have been invaluable.
Looking back, what advice would you give to new students?
Don’t compare yourself to other people. That was the mistake I made when I first arrived to study and it really affected my confidence. I then focused on my style and instead of comparing myself, I collaborated with those whose styles I admired. Do whatever you love, don't be afraid to experiment and don’t compare yourself to other people.
What’s next for you?
I still have one more year left of my study, then I am thinking about an MA in Creative Education. I would love to go into creative teaching, so I can still enjoy my passion and be an artist.