Speaking to Support Structures: Skin Deep
We all have individual practices, but we come together to work towards our common goals by sharing skills, resources and dreams.
Members of Skin Deep – a cultural collective that makes space for creatives of colour to work towards racial justice – offer insight into how they develop shared practices.
Support Structures for Support Structures is a fellowship which nurtures London-based artists and collectives working with spatial, social and community practices. Initiated with Sumayya Vally – architect of the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 – the programme offers financial support and mentorship, and forms a supportive network of peers.
For this series, we asked each of the fellows in the 2021 Support Structures cohort to reflect on their work in the context of community. Skin Deep is a multimedia racial justice organisation that creates across a print magazine, live events, and digital formats, and works towards the goal of achieving long-term structural change for communities. Their work aims to help artists and activists in London and across the world to think beyond crisis and survival, and to dream of just futures.
Tell us about you and your practice.
We are dedicated to building capacity for Black creatives and creatives of colour to think beyond crisis and survival, and to dream of just futures. Since 2014, we have been hosting immersive live events and creative workshops, publishing thoughtful online storytelling, and producing bold and beautiful print magazines. We work with Black and POC artists, activists and audiences in the UK and across the globe. Our work is collaborative, original, non-reactive, and hopeful. We celebrate joy and dreaming.
What does support look like in practice?
There are many ways of understanding what support means in practice, but for Skin Deep, the two embodiments of it that are key to our work are organisational and interpersonal support systems. From an organisational standpoint, funding is essential, as is recognising the limitations imposed by operating under capitalism. We favour long, slow relationship-building – whether that’s with partner collaborators or funders – in which we’re able to establish trust and to truly understand each other and the shared goals we are working towards. This deeper relationship allows us to recognise the scope of each other’s needs, and facilitates a more holistic and human approach to work.
Interpersonally, it’s important for us to check in with each other and foster a culture of care. We strive to show flexibility and anticipate each other’s needs, being aware of different people’s capacities and requirements. We seek to be open and clear about our boundaries and commitments, so that others can be open about theirs. Love is central. To effectively exist within a structure like this, we need to build in time and space.
Why is collective work important?
Skin Deep is a collective – we all have our own individual practices, but we come together to work towards our common goals by sharing skills, resources and dreams. The nature of our work means we actively seek to work collaboratively with other collectives and individuals who share in our goals of racial justice.
For us, working collectively means building landscapes, industries, and societies that do not inherently marginalise black people, people of colour, queer people, people with disabilities, and all others facing oppression. The people we collaborate with are like our family, so our relationships are committed, reciprocal and responsive to specific needs. Working in this way requires more time, care and consideration, but from our experience it can lead to long-term change for our communities that is meaningful, nourishing and generative.
This work is important because it requires us to be continually learning from collectives with different practices or communities. As we intend to contribute to a different kind of scaffolding for our local and global communities – a support that builds capacity, redistributes resources, and contributes to a legacy of hope, justice and creativity – then we need to keep looking beyond our own experiences and knowledge bases.