In 2021, ROOT-ed Zine’s co-founders and collaborators, Fauziya Johnson and Amber Akaunu, invited Simone to feature in their first major exhibition ‘Retrospect, Reality, Reform’ at The Tetley, along with three artists from across the North West and Yorkshire (Linnet Panashe Rubaya, Yasmin Ali and Hanna Gwynn). ‘Retrospect, Reality and Reform’ gave Simone her first opportunity to have her work exhibited in a gallery space.
The exhibition works aimed to “examine the ideas of retrospection, reality and reform, offering a platform for reflective, unfiltered and liberating perspectives from artists of colour.”
Simone’s work largely focused around themes of race and feminism, and featured in Gallery 1, Gallery 2 and in the corridor. Below is the wording about her pieces from the exhibition guide:
Simone Yasmin is a Black writer and spoken word artist born and based in Leeds. Her sculptural installation is a response to Black people being told that ‘there’s a chip on your shoulder’. Simone invites us to consider Toni Morrison’s words: ‘…the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being.’ In this way, Simone acknowledges that there are chips, probably entire forests, weighing on the shoulders of oppressed people and asks: ‘But can you really blame us? I accept the chips. I let you sit with your discomfort. And then I let you unpack the reasons you feel that discomfort. So, here lie the chips from all our Black shoulders. Let them be.’
Simone Yasmin’s work Can you see this? highlights the contrasts in British and US media representations of refugees and asylum seekers of different races and ethnicities following the Russia-Ukraine war in Europe.
Simone dissects these comparisons in her own words: ‘We’d seen victims before, but not like this. This was something entirely new all together. The BBC broadcast an interview with a former deputy prosecutor general of Ukraine, who remarked how traumatic it was to see ‘European people with blue eyes and blonde hair being killed, children being killed, everyday.’ CBS News’ senior foreign correspondent reported that this was a ‘relatively civilised, relatively European city […] where you wouldn’t expect that or hope that it is going to happen.’ I had never hoped for this to happen anywhere. Not to anyone. But people felt this one heavily, in a strange kind of way. They grieved for the loss of what they knew. What they thought they knew. That comfort. Their ignorance, protected by comments about developing countries, never questioning the reason these countries were still developing, shattered entirely.’
Simone Yasmin describes herself as an ‘artivist’ and the intersection of race and feminism is often central to her work. The alternative timeline that she presents in Black woman expands upon foundational concepts of Black feminism, of carving out space, resisting and persisting, caring and honouring.”
As part of the exhibition, ROOT-ed Zine produced a free limited edition zine that was published towards the end of the show, and launched at the closing event which also marked ROOT-ed Zine’s 5th birthday. See Simone’s contribution to the zine below.
ROOT-ed Zine: Retrospect, Reality, Reform is part of The Tetley Jerwood Commissions programme, supported by Jerwood Arts’ Development Programme Fund.