From her award-winning blog, The Nublk, to speaking engagements at Google or Social Media Week Lagos it’s clear that energy that drives young British-Grenadian Gabrielle Smith* stems from her passion for forging connections between arts and culture from Africa and the diaspora.
Smith was born in 1984 to Grenadian parents living in London. The experience of balancing this dual identity and the experiences that emerge from the interplay of the two seems to have influenced much of her work.
The NuBlk blog was triggered by Smith’s desire to find and connect creatives who also happen to be from Africa or diaspora communities. The site has become platform with a global following drawn to original content that profiles new and emerging talent – many of whom have gone on to become noted successes in their fields. It’s not surprising that Thenublk won the popular vote for Best International Blog at the Black Weblog Awards in 2011.
While Smith has been featured in numerous blogs and magazines, she seems less interested in press mentions and more concerned with finding ways to translate online connections into meaningful offline experiences.
In 2011 as part of London’s annual black history month she curated ‘I am the Nu Black’ a show that featured the work of young black creative talent from countries ranging from South Africa, Czechoslovakia and the US. In 2012 say the launch of her ‘More than XY’ exhibition that celebrated the role of fathers and other positive male role models in the black community.
Despite holding down a full-time job as a graphic designer at the UK’s leading commercial news broadcaster ITV News the 29-year-old manages to pack in an impressive array of extra-curricular activities. In 2012 she was selected by the UK Trade and Industry’s Platinum Connection to represent the UK at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.
2013 saw her address audiences at Social Media Week Lagos on how social media can be used to create social change and in December she Smith was chosen by Google to address an audience as part of the company’s Top Black Talent Initiative.
2014 looks no less busy for Gabrielle. Forthcoming projects include a weekend of events in to mark the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s classic film Do The Right Thing, a series of film screenings to mark the 40th anniversary of Grenada’s independence and a collaboration with Groundation Grenada set to take place in Grenada this summer.
Tell us a bit about yourself – who are you, what do you do and why do you do it?
I’m Gabrielle Smith; a creative passionate about connectivity and collaboration. I currently work as a motion graphic designer for ITN and have been doing so for the past 5 years.
I’m also the founder of an arts and culture platform Thenublk. The site, which I started in 2008, aims to engage its audience through curated and created content by informing, educating and connecting them to the often untold and inspiring stories of creatives from Africa and the Diaspora.
What was it like growing up as the child of Grenadian parents in the UK?
I felt as though there was a healthy balance of British and Grenadian culture around me when I was young, from food and drink (it’s my parents I have to thank for my acquired appreciation of mauby) and also through folktales. I visited the island for the first time when I was five or six years-old and although I don’t remember the trip well, I do feel it was my first introduction to what my parents’ life was like before they came to the UK.
Through writing letters to grandparents and visiting the island throughout my childhood to teenage years I think it made me more curious to discover more of Grenada that my parents hadn’t spoken about.
Why did you start the NuBlack and what do you hope to hope to achieve through it?
I started Thenublk for a number of reasons. I was interested in finding out whether or not a person’s cultural background has an influence on the work they do as a creative. The second influence was wanting to celebrate Black History Month in a new way in the UK.
Although I appreciated the familiar faces that were celebrated each year I wanted to feel more connected to the creative arts side so decided to set myself a 30-day challenge to interview young creatives with similar experiences to mine as well as posting quotes and photographs.
Initially, as it was a challenge I set for myself, I think the aim was to discover as much as I could about my culture. Five years in I feel my sense of wanting to know more and discover creative talent has grown but my focus has now started to shift towards wanting to engage youth in learning about their culture/social issues through the arts. I feel that for a lot of people from African and Caribbean backgrounds that creative arts is sometimes overlooked, I want to be able to change that!
What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Wow, that’s a good question! My Dad once advised me that if anyone bothered me when I was younger that I should twist their arm behind their back, let’s just say that it ended in tears (not mine haha).
I think the worst advice I’ve been given is that I’m not ready or that I need to wait for someone else to approve me to make what I’m doing worthwhile.
I think we underestimate the impact fear can have on the decisions we make and how it can affect the advice we give people. You can wait for a VERY long time before you realise that sometimes you’re the only person that can get things started or move in the direction you’d like to go in life.
If you could commit to changing one issue in Grenada, what would it be?
I would commit to get more young people on the island engaged in the arts. I feel it’s such an important medium when it comes to being able to tell stories and address issues that people may be facing. It’s something anybody can do so it’s a great way to engage people.
Where’s your favourite place to relax in Grenada?
My favourite place to relax in Grenada is my grandmother’s veranda at the crack of dawn, it’s peaceful and the perfect place to watch the sun rise whilst sipping on a cup of cocoa tea!
*Gabrielle Smith also happens to be the author’s sister.