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Visual Communication (MA)

Thalia Dougourou

Thalia Dougourou is an artist from London, UK. Her practice is based on dismantling Eurocentric perspectives on African history through word and image . The reinforced idea that African history begins at the point of slavery is an extremely damaging narrative as it suggests that black existences is only worth being recorded at the times of European intervention.

Before attending the RCA, Thalia studied BA Illustration at Cardiff Metropolitan university.

Degree Details

School of CommunicationVisual Communication (MA)RCA2023 at Battersea and Kensington

RCA Kensington, Darwin Building, Fourth floor


Growing up as a black woman in the UK and experiencing the Eurocentric curriculum for myself, specifically at secondary school level, it soon became clear to me that when black history is taught there are only a few topics that are heavily focused on. These topics are centered around pain, dehumanisation and suffering. Although these parts of black history (such as slavery) are incredibly important and should be taught , I feel as though we should acknowledge that African history expands beyond colonialism. Africa has a rich history and has had a presence in Europe centuries before the slave trade but this narrative is not highlighted as much as our histories of pain and struggle.

The way I had been introduced to African history at school, caused unconscious bias within myself. I felt that because the history of Africa was no where near as vast as that of my white classmates, therefore making me feel inferior. I also made me wonder why the curriculum focused on these specific narratives. Was they trying to make us believe that Europe was a the center of life itself and that it ignited the beginning of African history? Were they hiding something?

While I was completing my bachelors in Cardiff, I was the only black student in my year group. Feelings of being different and inferior began to resurface and I found myself as lost as my history was. I This became the catalyst that would fuel my work.

The Missing Pages

I am currently exploring the depiction of black people in Medieval Europe. Through cross temporal research I became interested in the Middle Ages (late 5th century to the late 15th century) because it is chronologically placed before the renaissance, which was a time a time of significant social and political change. From my research, I discovered that there were depictions of African people as royalty, nobility, celestial beings and so much more. However, the arrival of the renaissance changed that and the language used to describe black people became extremely derogatory and instilled the idea of black people being lesser than. Even the use of the term 'black' suggested that the souls of African people were so evil that the our dark complexion was a physical manifestation of our dark souls.

Graphite Pencil on Paper
Sir Morien (The Raven)
Graphite Pencil on Paper
The Black Madonna
Handwritten short story
I Have Seen What They Have Done
Charcoal on paper
St Maurice Iconography
Visual Research on St Maurice, with portrait study and notes
Study of St Maurice
Visual and written research

Creative Writing

St Maurice was a Christian Egyptian military general who headed the Theban Legion of Rome. He was martyred for refusing a direct order from Emperor Maximian to kill Christian Soldiers as a sacrifice to the Greek Gods. St Maurice it the patron saint of the Swiss guard and Coburg, Germany. However, in 1934 the Nazi party forbade his image from being displayed as the idea of a black saint went against their ideologies. This led to his image becoming whitewashed but in 1945 his true image was restored.

I found this story interesting and I want to write something that gave St Maurice a voice. I wrote ' I Have Seen What They Have Done' from his perspective, giving him a voice that critiques what was done to his image long after his death. Saidya Haartman's use of critical fabulation inspired me in the process of writing a short story that is essentially about the soul of a man that sees everything that has been done to his memory.

Live Drawing
SymposiumDuring the symposium, I did live drawing to explore the whitewashing of black women in art history. The whitewashing of these women was a way in which the art world perpetuated the idea of Eurocentric beauty standards. The erasure of black women from these stories led to there only being space for the dehumanization and fetishization of black women.
Live Drawing
Live Drawing
Queen of Sheba Illustration. Ink on Cartridge Paper
Material investigationsQueen of Sheba Illustration
Mark Making Exercise (Depiction of Queen of Sheba). Ink on Cartridge Paper
Mark Making Exercise (Depiction of Queen of Sheba)
Mark Making Exercise (depiction of Sarah Baartman) Sarah Baartman was an African woman (Khoikhoi) who was kidnapped and exhibited as a freakshow attraction in Europe (19th century). She became known as Hottentot Venus. When she died her body was exhibited and put on display. A plaster cast of her body was made and was displayed in Paris. This is a prime example of the dehumanization and fetishization of black women.
5 minute Drawing Exercise (Depiction of Sarah Baartman Plaster Cast)
Ink, Chalk pastel and Graphite pencil on paper
This piece is based on stories my parents would tell me about celestial bodies. The stories were deeply rooted in African Spirituality, specifically from the part of Ivory Coast that my family is from.
Handwritten short story
Across the Sky
Ink on Cartridge paper
BrothersThis ink drawing depicts the three brothers from the 'Across the Sky' story.
Heat Transferable ink drawing
This ink drawing is a further development of the story. I used this as an opportunity to experiment with colours and texture. The ink used is heat transferable meaning that the image could then be transferred to fabric with applied heat.
Heat transfer (attempt 1)
Transfer 2
Heat transfer (attempt 2)
Transfer 3
Heat Transfer (attempt 3)

Exploring different materials allows me to think about different forms of storytelling. The heat transferable ink drawings allowed to explore fabric as a form of immersion through texture. My work is normally monochromatic however I wanted to experiment with colour and the explore the colour changes with each heat transfer of the same image.

RCA Logitech Scholarship