The Arts Council England grant “Developing your creative practice” DYCP made a big impact. I could go out & meet people & tell them that I had a degree in photography & an Arts Council Funded grant to research photographing people that represented my community in Manchester.

My DYCP proposal was ambitious because I would move from a place of comfort – my studio, making miniature diorama’s to that of interaction & engagement with Nigerian Community in Manchester.

I began my research as planned with at, ”Mothers church the Deeper Christian Life Ministry” My aim was to build my confidence with familiar faces, however I found that the opposite was happening & I did not feel comfortable photographing the community that I knew & that was part of my life. This was unexpected, I moved quickly on & began to research groups originating from Nigeria living in Manchester. I attended African Mass at Salford cathedral to continue to research into Christian African community in Manchester.

My first major photoshoot of my DYCP project.Oct 13, 2018 at the Nigerian Women’s Group Fundraising Dinner – Black History Month / Nigerian Independence Celebration. To my surprise, at the fund-raising dinner I met people interested in my wish to be a professional photographer. All wanted to help & all were networked into the community that I wanted to photograph. Afterwards I found myself invited to every African event, making the project more inclusive & creating wider participation in the photography project. At a dinner of Nigerian women at West Indian community centre in Moss Side, I met community peace activist Dr Erinma Bell MBE. Introducing myself to people as a photographer with a grant to research, gave me great confidence & I believe it also opened many doors both in the Nigerian business community. For example I attended Celebrating Cultural Differences, in Rochdale, & for example in the arts, I attended all the Afro Jam Planning meetings & photographed the event that was in collaboration with Manchester International Festival.

Visitors to Afro Jam, Manchester by Tolu Sholanke 2019

When I had produced a few photography books notably Dumpton. Before my DYCP grant I was isolated from the arts and isolated from the African community except for my attendance at church on Sunday, friends of family kickstarted my meeting with Nigerian Women’s Group Manchester. I am now mixing with the movers and shakers in Manchester’s African community, Business leaders, community organisers, performers, and makers.

Tolu Sholanke

I learnt that the people I met did not use social media platforms like instagram and twitter or facebook for promoting their community activities, so I did not focus on these platforms with my building of networks, everyone enjoyed face to face meetings and there was plenty of opportunity, throughout my DYCP. I learned that in Manchester there is an active African community that are delivering projects with Heritage Lottery funds and collaborating with Manchester International Festival. Amongst the community is an ambition to improve the lives of young people and children and give them a better sense of belonging and identity, so they understand more about their culture and origin. As a photographer I found I was of value to the community because I was attaching importance to heritage and culture of the community; I would also mix well with the young people and I was a role model. The DYCP also enabled me to try new technical skills, inspired by masterclass’s in photography at Blast photography Festival West Bromwich for example burst photography to make gifs and photo books. I also used new techniques when shooting, creating videos and gifs of performances and community dances. I met people from the African community who were tremendously supportive, however everyone I met would of benefited from Deaf awareness training. I felt I was providing Deaf awareness. I changed perceptions of Deaf people by demonstrating that Deaf people of colour can get degrees, work as a photographer, and run workshops with elders, children and young people.

Tolu Sholanke

Take a look at photographer Tolu Sholanke photo stories: