Two friends from Leicester have used their love of the arts and their passion for their city and its people to form a new band for creatives. In the summer of 2019, the couple set up Apittame Arts – a multifaceted club that allows members of the city’s ethnic minority communities to share Leicester to come together and share their passion for film, literature and storytelling.
Imani Wenham, 21, and Jeanette Kamara, 24, describe themselves as “the megaphones of the people”. Jeanette said: “When I moved to Leicester from Northern Ireland five years ago I really wanted to be involved in the arts, but I felt like there was no real opportunities for people my age and people who looked like me.”
“There was a real void in the market for marginalized bands, so when Imani came up with the idea of starting Apittame, I knew it was something I wanted to support. In Leicester, the arts scene is not as diverse or involved as she should be and so I felt it was important to be a part of something that could give people a creative outlet.”
READ MORE: ‘I’ve been at rock bottom,’ says Leicester man who made documentary about his own alcohol addiction
“We need something like Apittame Arts in Leicester. We’re starting small but one day we’re going to take over the world.”
The group has used spaces such as the African Caribbean Center in the city’s Highfields neighborhood to host regular community cinemas where they screen films centered on black voices and the black experience, and during the COVID lockdown, Apittame Arts has also organized Netflix parties to help BAME members who have felt isolated during the pandemic.
After each film screening, they have an in-depth discussion about people’s thoughts and feelings around each film. Although largely focused on film, the group also held creative writing workshops.
Imani went deeper into the culmination of the arts of Apittame and her hopes of creating an even bigger voice for BAME communities in Leicester. She started by saying, “Even though I currently do warehouse work, I am creative to the core.
“I want to be a writer who works within the community and brings the creative arts to people who might not normally have access to it. I realized that rather than waiting for someone else create such a band, I could do it myself.”
“During Black History Month in 2019, I spoke to a friend of mine who runs a group for women in tech, and she let me use her space to test out a creative writing group. centered on black historical figures, afro-futurism and black presence in art. I took pictures that represented these three things, and the band members came up with innovative pieces.
“We also talked about the importance of seeing people of color in shows about Afro-futurism, because if you don’t exist in shows about futurism or science fiction, it’s like you says we don’t exist at all. That was the catalyst for where things really started for us.
She continued, “I wasn’t in college when this all started, and I really wanted to have that sense of community. Whether you’re in college or not, it’s very difficult to meet people who are on the same page as you or who want to do the same things as you.
“That being said, Apittame Arts describes itself as versatile when it comes to creativity. We plan to launch a theater workshop and continue to show films that represent minority groups – especially those whose stories are not widely broadcast.
Imani credits her Nigerian heritage and background with some of her biggest inspirations. She said: “Nollywood films are not renowned in England compared to Hollywood films or British films, so we at Apittame arts want to screen films like this.”
“My mum is a writer and she’s definitely one of my heroes, but writers in general are a big inspiration. If you think about it, writers affect the way humanity sees the world – whether it’s for the screen or television, writers are the real authors of the perception of humanity, and I want Apittame Arts to be storytellers for ethnic minorities.
“Growing up with an Afro-Caribbean background, there’s always a sense of community. My grandfather was all about bringing people together – he used to do drumming workshops and creative writing workshops in schools, so I wanted to bring that sense of community to the work that I do.
“There are a lot of people in Leicester who may not be from the city, or even from the countryside, and so it’s really good that they can finally come to the space where they can feel at home. I want the world to remember that everything we do has a butterfly effect and it is our duty to watch over our fellow human beings.
Despite their humble beginnings, the founders of Apittame Arts aspire to take the club even further. Imani said: “At the time, youth centers were so important, and now I want young and old to come together to form a close network of contacts.
“We are going to organize festivals where new artists who don’t have space to perform can present their new work. Apittame Arts is going to be a platform for people to really embark on their creative careers. »