Danielle Brathwaite-Shelley initially wanted to be a physicist, but at the last minute she chose art instead. We are lucky she did. After graduating from London’s prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in 2019, the 27-year-old artist, who is based between London and Berlin, has been on a sharp upwards trajectory. This summer saw her first solo show, She Keeps Me Damn Alive, at Arebyte Gallery, London. A digital game, it challenged visitors to protect Black trans lives, subtly probing the way that cis-passivity can help perpetuate transphobic violence. Universally praised, it secured Brathwaite-Shelley the cover of Frieze magazine.
Centred around technology, Brathwaite-Shelley’s art practice is multifarious. Switching between film, animation, painting, sound design, performance and video game design, her work provides a nuanced, holistic exploration of a Black trans experience. She considers part of her task as an artist to be the creation of an alternative archive, capable of housing black trans histories, helping to enable their future survival. Speaking to Buffalo AKG Art museum she outlined her wish to not only make Black trans lives the subject of her work, but to empower Black trans people to tell their own stories too. “It is about working with Black trans people who are not artists, and allowing them the space to remember, and also to generate and create things that they’re not usually able to,” she said. “That doesn’t just stem from telling stories, but also from building the tools so that the story can be told."
Text Gazelle Mba