"Don’t be afraid to advocate for what you believe in" - Interview to Shannon Bono

Interview by Rossella Forle’

Shannon Bono better known as Bono is a very talented artist. Her work has been influenced by her identity, and African art, design and materials. It’s impressive the strong relationship between art, politic and activism in such a young artist at the beginning of her career.

I have interviewed her for We Hate Pink, enjoy.


01.  Your work is beautiful and political. Do you feel your own identity influences your work?

My identity definitely influences my work, a lot of my recent paintings consist of self-portraits which allows me to manipulate my body to act as a symbol for a specific message or convey a story. My work is also heavily influenced by African Dutch wax cloth and African textiles, these materials are very symbolic in my culture representing special occasions such as weddings, funerals or anniversaries.  I use these patterns in a symbolic way too, embedding biological structures into the designs to add to the narrative. For example, I produced three paintings for my degree show which were influenced by my countries Congo and Sierra Leone, tackling issues of greed and corruption as well as uplifting stories of black women.




02.  Where your inspiration comes from and who inspires you?

I am inspired by painters, activists, writers and my culture. My favourite artists include Mickalene Thomas and Zanele Muholi, these artists consider the presence of black bodies and take into account the complete narrative. I enjoy Thomas’ use of scale and her multimedia approach and I appreciate Muholi’s activism.


03.  Your “Open Dialogue: Artist + Designers of Afro- Caribbean descent” is a really interesting analysis of the lack of Afro/Caribbean representation among students, teachers and technicians at UAL, can you tell us a little bit more about it?

Open Dialogue was an exhibition/event chaired by visiting lecturer Kelly Walters, who successfully brought black and brown artists together to discuss their different experiences with race and the art curriculum. This issue of a lack of representation was something I battled with through-out my course, and I am currently tackling this issue as my final marks are given. I felt my work was not understood or mis-understood, and this reflected in the feedback I was given which was really disappointed. I feel like if the staff were more diverse certain language would not be used and topics of agency wouldn’t seem so polemic.


04.  What lessons do you try to pass on to young women at the start of their careers?

I am a young woman at the start of my career, and I have got a lot to learn myself. However, I would say that young women should explore all subjects of interest, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to advocate for what you believe in.

  1. Bébé Moké nani abêti yo, Loba na ngai, Ngai na zongisa, Yo moko otutani na mur Yandako, Bebe moké nani abêti yo.

  2. Guard me in the dark of night, and in the morning send your light.

  3. There's a fire in the mountain! Run! Run! Run!

  4. 'Ain't I A Woman?'



Bono is a multimedia driven artist, curator and cultural writer currently studying on the MA Art & Science course at Central Saint Martins University. Bono creates paintings, prints, collages and sculpture that centralise the black female body as the subject in order to disable the limiting socially constructed ideologies placed upon them and advocate for its presence and muted narratives. She re-imagines these bodies as a map of modernity, using anatomical manipulation and surrealist elements to work as ‘artivisms’ against oppressive forces. Identity, sexual and body politics are channelled through her works, as a means for expressing the multitude of black feminisms and personal embodied experiences. Bono uses African traditions, re-workings of classical art history and the stories of pioneering black females to inform the aesthetic structure of her work. Her goal is to educate, aspire and liberate her audience, as an interdisciplinary artivist.