Being a black woman in the art world with Amanda Sakwaa-Mante
I met Amanda seven years ago through a uni friends of mine and it turned out we came from the same town! Amanda studied Art History and Curating at Manchester uni and now works as a gallery assistant at an Auction House and Education Coordinator at a non-profit community interest company. She is also studying an MA in Arts Policy and Management. Amanda took the time to answer my questions on what it’s like to be in an industry where you don’t come into contact with a lot of other black women and shares her experiences.
Tell me a bit about your job and how you got into it?
Working in the arts, you tend to have your foot in a couple of jobs, one of which I work as a gallery assistant for an international auction house. Working with specialist and client services, I assist clients with further information regarding bidding in an auction and the lots they wish to buy. I can’t remember exactly how I applied; it was either on LinkedIn or their website.
What do you find most difficult about being a woman of colour in art?
I find it hard to keep myself motivated and inspired at times because you don’t see a large amount of diversity in the arts, let alone WOC and especially in high-level positions. The lack of diversity can make me question my career trajectory.
What do you like most about working in the art world?
I don’t work well under pressure, and so I find the art world less intense in comparison to other professions - plus, everyone I work with is super friendly and approachable. At times, I view working a form of therapy when I need a distraction from my other jobs or personal life. Also, I’m able to share that same mindfulness tool with the stakeholders too and witness the positive impact.
How do you find working in an industry that is historically known for being dominated by white men?
As feminism, equality and inclusion discourses become more of a social norm, I have observed the evolution of white male-dominated power roles, white women are being included now. However, we still face the issue of minuscule intersectional, diverse representations. It is not seen as just as important because it only affects a small minority, and this narrative needs to change.
What’s something you want everyone to know about being a black woman in the art world?
I would have more hope and confidence for my success if I saw someone similar to myself that have accomplished similar goals or simply working in a high-level position in the arts because I would know my goals are more than achievable.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve worked on?
I didn’t personally work on this project, however I witnessed parts of the development process, and it truly is a great opportunity for upcoming children illustrators. One of the companies I work for, Pop-Up Projects partnered with House of Illustration and in association with universities and publishers to create a two-year programme called Pathways, which appeals to the under-represented candidates, such as ethnic minorities and/or people from disadvantaged backgrounds. During the project, the students will create publish and launch works and be mentored all throughout, among other things.
What would you say to any WOC looking to get into this industry?
Working in the arts is hard, competitive and a long process. Remember to network, network, network along the way. Different sectors within the arts are always overlapping, someone you may have met a few years back might end creating your dream opportunity in the future.
At the same time, it is also important for you to weed out the pointless and useful people you work with. A lot of people in the arts are just looking out for themselves. However, there are some which will share their triumphs and tribulations with you. You can learn what worked and what didn’t without even going through the process yourself. Hopefully, it’ll also teach you to be patient with your own career trajectory. Your pathway is different from everyone else, and just because you may see others reaching their goals quicker doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Your uniqueness is something no one else can compete with, always highlight those same unique qualities in your cv and cover letter, because that is truly what will set you apart from everyone else. Never forget you will succeed in whatever you choose to focus your mind on.
Who inspires you?
Whose career would you want to have if you didn’t have your own?
Chrissy Rutherford or Lindsay Peoples Wagner.
Who do you wish was your BFF?
Can I have a BFF group? Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Oprah, Whoopi Goldberg and Beyoncé.
Who do you learn from?
Everyone tbh - everyone’s path is different and each one has a life lesson to be learnt.