Conceived and put together by curator and public speaker Nicole Krystal Crentsil, Unmasked Women is a project that seeks to address the current state of mental health for young black women in the UK. While initially envisioned as a once-off exhibition, its immense success has led to additional well-received showcases in collaboration with other artists, and Crentsil’s energy for this creative pursuit doesn’t seem to be waning.

“I was mainly influenced by my personal experiences. Although Unmasked Women is a very social project, which gathers many groups of people and communities together, it has also been a form of my own creative therapy. Something I started as a form of pleasure has now become bigger than I could ever imagine. It’s really great to see,” Crenstil told entertainment and lifestyle website HelloGiggles.

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Heather Agyepong’s work Too Many Blackamoors aims to illustrate the artist’s internal conflicts about falling short of mainstream ideals

The exhibition depicts mental health as it relates to a community that has long seemed to struggle with acknowledging and understanding psychological wellness, and first kicked off in London in September 2016. Prioritising the perspectives of young black women, the show featured work from artists such as Azarra Amoy, Juliana Kasumu and Heather Agyepong.

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Since the debut exhibition, Unmasked Women has participated in an artistic take over at the Victoria and Albert Museum alongside the gal-dem collective, and Crentsil was even invited to give a talk at TEDxUCLWomen at University College London. Tentative plans involve expanding the project to include male artists and curate exhibitions relating to issues of self-love and self-affirmation.

Juliana Kasumu’s work looks at the ways in which west African women either conform to or rebel against current European standards of beauty

“I want Unmasked Women to be more than just an exhibition,” she explained in an interview with i-D Magazine. “It could be a collective, where we encourage further communication and kick-start conversations. It’s important to give people some understanding about black mental health, because it’s very different to mental health in other communities and is often overlooked, involving cultural differences, religious oppression, racism and all the things that amount to what a woman living in Britain may experience.” – Lindsay Samson