The S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys project is a creative arts, research-led project by artist Kay Rufai focusing on the eight main factors responsible for happiness. These factors were then used to design a series of photography, poetry and discussion-based art workshops with 30 boys from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds’ delivered by Kay, as a response to rising levels of youth violence and the negative media portrayal of Black boys as perpetrators and victims. The public-health approach investigated mental health provisions or lack thereof, for the demographic in question – Black youth.
The event at Woolwich Works was a Q&A session with Kay Rufai, the artist behind the exhibition and project, and four of the project participants. Kay and the boys involved spoke about being Black and young, and how they are perceived by the society. One young man spoke about how ‘Where he comes from it is dark’ and how they are forced to grow up to look after their family. Participants also spoke about specific mental health needs of Black boys, whilst challenging the negative stereotypes often associated with this demographic in mainstream media and broader society.
Kay also delved into the eight-week course the young males took part in before their portraits were taken, and the ongoing effects of the project on their lives. The event was powerful and filled with a deep sense of emotion.
Mental health is one of the five leading causes of poor health in our communities, we call these the ‘Vital 5’. Find out more about what this means.