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Female and BME students celebrated in new portrait collections

"If our access initiatives have taught us any- thing, it’s that representation really matters"

Across several Oxford colleges, portrait exhibitions centred on the achievements of female and ethnic minority alumni and academics have been held this month.

Portraits of exceptional alumni, staff and Fellows, are displayed in the dining halls of many colleges.

The exhibitions expand on 2017’s Diversifying Portraiture initiative, which aimed to broaden representation of different marginal- ised groups around the University.

Honourees include Professor Dapo Akande,the first black professor to receive a portrait at St Peter’s College. Professor Akande, speaking to the University News Service, said “‘I began teaching at St Peter’s College in 2004. I found it, and Oxford, to be a very supportive and welcoming academic environment.”

“It is my hope that this will be everyone’s experience of Oxford.”

“I also hope that the diversity of portraits now to be seen across Oxford will help to ensure that everyone with potential, particularly prospective students, will be able to visualise themselves being here, and being at home here.”

Others honoured include Renee Kapuku and Dr Anne Marie Imafidon, both featuring in an exhibition of 27 inspirational people at Keble College.

A graduate of University College, Alexandra Wilson’s portrait was latest to be unveiled in the UNIV Gallery.

The exhibition features over 50 portraits of UNIV alumni aged 35 and under. Wilson’s portrait was added in conjunction with celebrations of 40 years of women at the college.

Now a barrister specialising in family law, Wilson studied PPE and graduated in 2016. She said: “I couldn’t be prouder to have my picture hanging on the wall of the oldest college at Oxford University.

“Today we celebrated 40 years of women at Oxford, next year we’ll have our first female master at Univ and the first black master atOxford. We’re making history!”

The Oxford African and Caribbean Society have expressed support for the exhibitions, saying: “We are of course very happy with the steps colleges are taking to increase BAME and female representation in the university’s portraiture.

“There is a vast and largely uncovered history of exceptional BAME and female students that have attended this great institution and although there is still work to be done, this is certainly a step in the right direction.

“If our access initiatives have taught us anything, it’s that representation really matters, so exhibitions like these are very positive.”

The Oxford Feminist Society concurred, saying: “It’s long overdue that the university is finally recognising that people of colour, and women of colour, have been an integral part of Oxford’s history and have been for a while.

“We think the celebration of the achieve- ments of women of colour is great for access too and it lets other people of colour know that they do have a space in this environment.”

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