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Moreblessing Maturure is creating diversity in media in so many ways

PHOTOGRAPHER – KRISTINA YENKO
PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT – CHRIS CAO
STYLIST – OLIVIA SMYTHE
MAKEUP – VERONIKA MOREIRA
HAIR – CHRISSY ZEMURA
SHOT AT SUNSTUDIOS SYDNEY

 

WORDS BY ELIZA SHOLLY

If we had to write the Wikipedia page for Moreblessing Maturure, defining her role would be a hefty task.

She is the founder and creative director of FOLK Magazine, an online and print platform dedicated to showcasing Australian artists of colour and their work. She has held a myriad of acting roles across stage, screen and literature. She has written both fiction and non-fiction for an extensive list of titles. She is currently developing an online dramedy series called Afro Sistahs. She is a proud diversity advocate and consultant, a TEDx speaker, a model and many-time award winner.

It’s a long list.

Born in Zimbabwe before migrating to Australia at eight years old, Moreblessing has been privy to two starkly different representations of what, and who, is ‘normal’. With the benefit of this comparison, she has worked hard to start conversations around the lack of diversity she encounters on a daily basis. An area of focus for her has been mainstream media. 

“When I first began campaigning around representation in media, my peers would often talk about the first time they saw themselves in some sort of mass media example,” she says.

“Growing up in Zimbabwe, I saw people that looked like me everywhere, that was my reality. Then I came here and I came up against the messaging that my reality wasn’t ‘the norm’.”

“There are so many little things, like having sign language on the news as the default in Zimbabwe, is another reality that isn’t the norm here. The rules of engagement are different here. Some realities deemed more legitimate than others— and that doesn’t quite cut it for me.”

Entering the creative media industry, both as a participant and advocate, Moreblessing was quick to question the diversity of the spaces and organisations she was entering. She insists some effort was made by these groups, but notes she often heard the same justifications. “The reason for the lack of diversity was because they didn’t know anyone outside of their own circles,” she says.

In response, she started FOLK Magazine.

What began as a directory to search for talent from diverse backgrounds, quickly turned into a fully developed independent magazine and website. And for many contributors, FOLK is a first in so many respects. For many it is their first time being published in Australia, having their work published by a person of colour, or being published at all.

FOLK has become a space where diversity of participants is celebrated. Value is seen in the nuance of different voices, and how best to tell the story at hand.

Moreblessing’s initial goal, however, was much less grand.

“In the early days, I just wanted to be petty,” she admits. “If I saw a circumstance in which an exclusively white narrative was being portrayed, I could point to [FOLK] Magazine and say, ‘oh, you don’t have an excuse anymore!’”

She’s quick to add that she also began FOLK as a means to find artists to collaborate with. “For example, if I write a play and we don’t have any Afrodiaspora theatre directors, I want to know who’s out there so I can work with them.”

Not long after its inception, however, Moreblessing soon realised the platform had greater potential. While FOLK could indeed serve as a directory for white and non-white people to seek out collaborators, it could also act as a means of highlighting the creative work that was already being performed.

“There were huge grassroots events out there that were doing incredibly diverse line-ups just out of their own pockets. But guess what? No one was covering them,” Moreblessing notes.

“People were writing, but no one was giving them somewhere to publish,” she adds.

It was then that Moreblessing made the decision to elevate FOLK from a directory to a publication, giving these diverse voices a platform on which to share their work.

There’s a long-held mentality among entrepreneurs that in order to create a successful product, service or community, you should solve a problem. What Moreblessing hypothesised with FOLK was correct, with the result that an industry-wide problem is now closer to being solved, as people of colour are given greater opportunities to partake in creative industries.

It might be apparent, then, that access is another area of importance to her.

“Because I have the privilege to influence, whether through advocacy, activism or the work I create and support, I am constantly thinking about what causes to prioritise and when. Currently, it’s access,” she says.

Her concern is not limited to physical access, which she notes we’re “roundly shocking” at prioritising. It also extends to how content creators and storytellers are framing public discourse and debate.

“How accessible are these discussions for all people to engage in?” she posits, before noting that she, too, is susceptible to getting it wrong.

“How we perform our activism is crucial. Too often it’s to be received by those who have had access to tertiary education, or at least been given the means and access to develop skills of critical analysis. Not everyone has access to opportunities to learn and sharpen those skills. That is a kind of access privilege that a lot of people don’t recognise.”

For those who engage in activism, there is a need to consider both who the message is for and who is actually receiving it. This is something Moreblessing is attempting to take more accountability for.

“The people who turn up to your panel might only be the ones who can afford to purchase a ticket,” she says. “It’s about finding the nuance to juggle that, and trying to find that overlapping space where the output of your work meets the communities whose stories you are telling.”

moreblessingmaturure.com
folkmagazine.com.au

A condensed version of this article was originally published in Fashion Journal 190. You can read it here.


Styling credits

LOOK ONE
KOWTOW ADA LONG SLIP DRESS, BATU AZUMI BOOTS, ALIX YANG SOPHIA EARRINGS
LOOK TWO
ARNSDORF MERINO RIB FUNNEL NECK SKIVVY, STYLIST’S OWN EARRING
LOOK THREE
VIKTORIA AND WOODS EVEREST BLAZER, VIKTORIA AND WOODS VARGO CULOTTE, ARNSDORF MERINO RIB FUNNEL NECK SKIVVY, BATU AZUMI BOOTS, ALIX YANG LINDY EARRINGS
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