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Ekua McMorris


Ekua McMorris
Ekua McMorris
It was Ekua McMorris’s daughter Taitu, now nine, who fuelled her mother’s ambition to become a photographer. 'I wouldn’t have done it without her. She was what made me think and focus,' McMorris, who has just finished her first year, said.

The 30-year-old Londoner has juggled study, exhibitions, commissions and motherhood throughout Taitu’s life. During her own sometimes wild teenage years, the Rastafarian-raised McMorris ran away to Africa for three years, first as volunteer then as traveller through Botswana, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe – 'the most beautiful country in the world'.

Those travels, her London roots and her highly politicised West Indian family background now inform her work. McMorris, who left school with GCSEs, returned home and enrolled in night school studying photography before completing a four-year part-time BA in Fine Art, specialising in photography, at London Metropolitan University.

'I knew my BA wasn’t enough if I wanted to move forward,' she said. 'I decided if I was going to apply anywhere it would be the Royal College. The course has more of a fine art bias, which was what I wanted. It was a challenge to see if I could get in, and if I got in whether I could do it.' When McMorris received a letter from the RCA inviting her for interview she was excited and nervous. 'I was a little bit intimidated but I thought I had nothing to lose. I didn’t want to pretend to be highly intellectual – I wanted to be myself but with the nerves I became almost a caricature of myself,' she said.

McMorris’s fellow photography students are a mostly European mix with one American and one Australian. Women outnumber men in her cohort. 'The College used to be really male dominated so that’s changed a lot,' she said.

After three terms McMorris lives and breathes her subject. 'I love it here. I love the fact I’m pushed and I’ve been taken out of my box. The BA was all within my boundaries. Going to the RCA I’ve had to travel a distance; it’s such a challenge.' McMorris said she has been forced to learn a different language around her subject, reading widely and looking at it in ways she had never contemplated before. 'At first it’s quite daunting,' she said.

She is currently working on three projects, the first a political collage based on text of inflammatory statements about race. Another is based on her childhood desire to have blonde hair, which stemmed she said from the fact she and her siblings were the only children at school with dreadlocks. She is shooting images of herself in various guises with blonde wigs, 'a bit Cindy Shermanesque'. The third is returning to her childhood haunts with a large format Polaroid camera and reshooting memories. As the only black person and the only Londoner on her course she wants to show her fellow students her stamping ground, where she belongs. 'It’s fun being the only Londoner, and I’m a proud Londoner,' she said.

"I love it here. I love the fact I’m pushed and I’ve been taken out of my box. The BA was all within my boundaries. Going to the RCA I’ve had to travel a distance; it’s such a challenge." Ekua McMorris

MA Photography, 2007–9