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We Are MA: Stephen Gombakomba, MA Curation

Stephen Gombakomba recently finished his MA Curation after completing his BA (Hons) Fashion Communication and Promotion in 2019.  He talks to us about his diverse practice, current projects and the responsibility of a creative.

Can you tell us a bit about your practice?

I always find it difficult to specify my practice as I feel I wear several hats, but I’d say I am a Creative Director and Curator. Within those terms there’s a graphic designer, podcast producer, music producer, events manager and DJ. 

Why is your practice important to you?

I like seeing the process of something going from a thought in my head to something somebody can engage with that is out there in the universe.

I love the feeling of finishing concepts and the more I do the more I build up my portfolio, connections and become better at what I do.

I feel it is also important to me because I get to give the world my interpretation of art and I feel I offer a slightly different perspective which is largely due to my life experiences and heritage. 

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What motivated you to study MA Curation?

While I was working at East GalleryNUA I was so certain that I was going to apply for the MA Communication Design course, but over time I realised how much I was enjoying working in the gallery space.

I think what enticed me the most was the process of seeing a white space transform into an exhibition that draws people in and the idea of something being so important that it can be toured around the country due to people wanting to view it.

How did you find the transition from BA Fashion Communication and Promotion to MA study?

I found the transition to be very straightforward- because I had already completed a BA that gave me the extra boost in confidence and eradicated any imposter syndrome or self-doubt I would have otherwise had with a change in environment.

The transition was like second nature to me and I liken it to training wheels on a bike in the sense that in my BA I was learning the fundamentals and in the MA I was putting the skills to use.

Reflecting on your MA, did you or your practice grow or change in a way that you did not expect? 

I feel like I did grow in terms of approaching people and pushing my ideas out there. I remember the first part of the course I was doing a mockup exhibition for one of my favourite musicians, Mr Scruff, and I was encouraged to contact him and let him know about the idea. I think this is one of the times where I felt like I was now an actual curator and my ideas could stand in the physical realm. 

“I think creatives have a responsibility to do what the history books fail to do, which is document the times accurately and from the perspective of the people.”

In what ways do you think creatives have a responsibility to society? 

I think creatives have a responsibility to do what the history books fail to do, which is document the times accurately and from the perspective of the people. Of course, people can create any style of art they want but at the core of it, I feel it is our responsibility to create art that influences people for the better. 

What’s next for you?

I am going to continue working on Album Art Galerie and continuing to blur the lines between my creations and curation. I am looking forward to bringing back the Audio Guide Tape series, a podcast where I get someone whose music taste I admire to select five of their favourite album covers from any genre/era/style.

I have been making use of the internet and using it to connect with like-minded individuals across the country so hopefully, some collaborations come out of that.

I was selected to be part of the Year 6 roster of the Future Bubblers instalment, a talent discovery and development idea by Gilles Peterson and Brownswood Records, so I am excited to see what opportunities come from that and how I can implement the knowledge from my degrees into this too.  

What advice would you give to someone considering MA study?

My advice for someone considering an MA is to go for it. Throughout the MA I networked with people from various practices and whenever they saw things relating to my practice they shared with me.

Make sure to utilise this sense of community as sometimes we forget how the people around us can help contribute to the success of our practices.  

See more of Stephen’s work on his Instagram

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