Son of Essence – Idris Yana

My name is Idris Hamza Yana. I was born in Yana, Bauchi state in the Muslim-dominated northern part of Nigeria. Some people get confused because my surname is the same with my hometown. Well, that is part of the colonial legacy we inherited whereby children enrolled in a centralised school, from different parts of a locality, were named with their villages for easy identification. I am Fulani by tribe. Fulani people constitute one of the largest (if not the largest) tribes in west and central Africa. They are commonly found in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Senegal, The Gambia and Togo. I speak Hausa and understand Fulfulde (also called Fula). As a child, I used to attend primary and Islamic schools on weekdays and shepherd goats on weekends. There are three different seasons in where I grew up: rainy, hot and harmattan. Rainy season lasts for about five months. Then harmattan will gradually creep in with its stinging cold and dusty air. The temperature sometimes drops to less than ten degrees Hot season precedes rainy season and it’s the time when farmers begin preparation. Sometimes the temperature reaches up to forty-five degrees during hot season. I am currently doing my PhD in the Department of English, University of Exeter. The focus of my research is the place and involvement of women in pre- and post-independence Kenyan politics. My interest is on the participation of women in the social, political, cultural and economic spheres of the society.


Son of Essence

I am a son

Of essence and substance

Dweller of the Sahel

Canvasser of the Sahara

Climber of the Mountains

Explorer of the Rivers


I am a son

Of winds and hurricanes

Of dews and dusts

Of mists and fogs

Of sweats and tears

Of laughters and cheers


I am a son

To Adamu and Adama

To Shaka and Sundiata

To Jaja and Fodio

To Mumbi and Gikonyo

To Amina and Opemsoo


I am a son

Of a man

And a woman

A human

So real

So dark

I am a son of essence

©Idris Yana

Being a multiracial, multicultural and multilingual woman in research – Nadia V. Monaia

As a multiracial, multicultural, and multilingual woman, I depict myself, proudly, as an African woman.

My history is the history of the people of Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Italy. It is a history that I inherited and has crafted me through its values, its principles, its traditions, its religions, its languages, its chants, its music, its art, its literature, its poems, its food, its perfumes, and its colors. These are the roots of my history and upbringing. They are the wealth of values, cultures, traditions, languages, interrelations, interactions, educational and life experiences in various countries that have made me who I am today.

Being a multicultural and a multilingual person will definitely influence me as a researcher and my research; it will give me broader and multiple views of the world through multiple perspectives and dynamics. My research will have various lenses and angles and will focus on freedom, inclusion, tolerance, respect for diversity, and empowerment.

Tikya the Blackheart man, children – Malcolm Richards

Malcolm Richards is a second-year independent, self-funded PhD student at the University of Exeter. His research uses critical autoethnography to explore funds of knowledge/identity from Black educators, examining how digital resources promote de/colonial dialogic pedagogies in UK schools; it is supervised by Dr Judith Kleine-Staarman and Dr Alexandra Allan (Graduate School of Education, University of Exeter).

Navigating de/colonial dialogues in digital spaces by a Black Atlantic researcher during one day in the time of Covid-19  


The last time I was in-person with a group co-facilitating dialogue about race, anti-racism and social justice was on 7 June 2020.  It was the first time I had left my Devon home since the pandemic started. I was stressed. I remember being concerned about the rain which I assumed would fall.

Anyone engaging with local social media knew where I would be. Cathedral Green in Exeter. I was preparing to support a co-hosting community-led event in support of #blacklivesmatters. We’ve got to speak to several hundreds of people. I know why I am there. If not we, who…? 

Too many things to consider. There were posts on social media advertising the event. Would the far right turn up? Police? We consulted, but we know that things change quickly. Social distancing? What if someone is ill? What if someone becomes ill? What is the far right turn up? What..? Perhaps we are asking the wrong question.

Why? We have always claimed space and place in which we draw upon our “funds of knowledge” (Moll,, 1992) to articulate our individual and collective voices. Today, there is a predominately ‘white’ audience prepared to join us in this space. Perhaps to consider our complicity in the structures and institutions we maintain?

Digital anchors

I am trying to break the habit of being transfixed to a broken mobile phone screen. I’m outside. There are people nearby, yet distant. Face coverings aren’t compulsory but I am wearing a thick scarf wrapped around my face. My phone vibrates in my pocket constantly.  Why was I spending so much time transfixed by the unsteady gaze of someone else’s camera phone narrative?

I need to avoid the videos showing the  8m and 43 seconds violence inflicted upon George Floyd (Rest In Power). The world has been consumed by the rescreening of his trauma, and my educational world seemed consumed by a blood lust for dialogue of my trauma. We’ve experienced enough violence in these spaces to last several lifetimes. I won’t watch a digital anchor where a police officer kneels on our neck while we cry for our mothers. I’ve heard those cries too many times.

Digital barriers

I try to focus. I know soon I have to speak. I forget my physical form is likely to inform perception and placement for many in the audience. As I scan the groups carefully assembled at distance on the grass, my eyes lock, for a moment, with some of the participants. I smile. Their gaze shifts quickly. A little shaken, I instinctively rely upon my routines of calm. We’ve been here many times before.

Quietly, I began to hum the first line of a Jamaican/Caribbean fable, ‘The Blackheart Man’, made famous by Bunny Wailer as the opening song of his debut album (1976). I call on the ancestors to give me strength and guidance, to be brave enough to engage with and listen to dialogue which may disrupt, distress – but seeks to heal, to de/colonise. I draw a deep breath and begin to speak.

Adapting and adjusting your research during Covid-19

I saw a tweet yesterday (3rd October 2020) from academic Dr Pat Noxolo (@patnoxolo; Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, University of Birmingham). Dr Noxolo often uses autoethnography in her work, and in this series of tweets speaking about her experiences of shopping while black, and the way in which as a Black womxn, the choreography of shopping has changed in our post-Covid-19 times. Dr Noxolo tweets of the way she “uses her smile a lot to warm the encounter  with suspicious looking shop assistants”.

Her shopping experiences are now transactional and speedy, suggesting that the bleak economic climate ensures that “the shopkeepers have gone full-on hard sell”. The weirdness of the experience that Dr Noxolo illustrates, resonated with me immediately. Her words promoted a connection to the aforementioned events of 7 June 2020.

Next steps

I’m a cis-male, racialized as Black Caribbean, who is attempting to complete a PhD independently and currently self-funded. Statistically, it is unlikely that I will even complete this course.

Using autoethnography, I can reflect upon how my research is underpinned by assumptions associated with access to physical spaces, conversations and spaces. My research is reliant upon collaboration in dialogue with Black educators who live and work across the UK, my ‘fieldwork’ has needed to become highly adaptable.

In many ways, my original research design had been bound by my access to self organising spaces of Black educators, who have had few ‘formal’ spaces or places for their funds of knowledge, or cultural histories, traditions or repertoires to be told. The greater availability and understanding of digital technologies has enabled this research to connect with educators who may have been out of reach.

The critical discourses forced to the light by the racialized inequalities by Covid-19 have triggered exponential growth in interest of resistance in anti-racism and social justice in education.

As before, I continue to teach, support and advocate for research which seeks to disrupt, develop and ultimately de/colonize.

This post origianlly appeared on the Research and Innovation blog as part of their 20 in 2020 series.

The Transformation of A Little Black Girl – Victoria Omotoso

Victoria Omotoso recently completed her PhD which explored cross-cultural audience receptions of The Lumo Project (2014) and Son of Man (2006), two Jesus films. Her research looks into how contexts of filmmakers and audiences influence how they construct and imagine the figure of Jesus in film. She also has a BA in music as I enjoy singing and playing piano.


What did you expect? Entering a world that was not designed for you? What did you expect walking through the hallways that have systematically limited people that look like you? You’d sit and listen. You’d try not too hard to stand out more than you do. But oh little black girl you’re about to tread a path that will transform your. Remember your history. Your history of where you came from, or where you are and where you going. You stand on the shoulders of strong black women, your grandmother, mother, aunts, sisters, friends. Your essence draws back to the history of your ancestors. They were formidable, tenacious, royal.


Keep your head up little black girl. You are now a black woman. You used to sit and listen  but now you stand and speak. You stand in the room, you walk these corridors as if they were designed for you because they are. Confident in your skin. No need to hide. Stand tall you deserve to be here. Fight, speak and live your truth.