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The Colour Palette: How can art aid healing from racial trauma?

Thahmina Begum, artist and trainee art psychotherapist, asks: ‘how can art aid healing from racial trauma?’. The Colour Palette is a Community Research Project that aims through art making to give voices to Bangladeshi groups and their lived experiences of racism.

This project explores the contentious, complex and personal issue of racial trauma through nine Creative Laboratories with three different generational groups in Beeston.

The Creative Labs explore what racial trauma is, through art making and discussion. The project shows how art making can support individual and collective healing through discussion and reflection.


Listen to this text here:

An image of five young South-East Asian Women, some sitting and standing around a workshop table full of art materials. They are in conversation, and two in the foreground and making things with their hands.

Content warning

The content and discussion emerging from these Creative Labs concerns lived experiences of racism and racial trauma. Much of the content may be emotionally and intellectually challenging to engage with.

Content warnings: racism and racial slurs, hateful language directed at religious groups (Islamophobia), violence, death or dying, oppressive language, mental ill health, blood and swearing.

"We created a safe space to make a brave space"
Thahmina Begum, artist

Thahmina Begum, The Colour Palette: How Can Art Aid Healing from Racial Trauma?, 2021

Documentary film of Creative Labs (14 min 34 sec), PANIC! Bursary, courtesy of The Tetley

Read a transcript of the film here:

Film transcript
“What's come out of this, some of the incidents that've happened to us... We don't realise it's actually racism. We just take it as though maybe it's just meant to be, honest. But now that we've gone into depth, we do now realise it is racism.”
A woman wearing a hijab who is painting a self-portrait. Surrounding the face are a series of questions written down. One of the questions is ‘can you speak English?’
An image of two polystyrene eggs, one white and the other an off-black colour - having been painted black this has since been scrubbed off.
A woman sitting at a table and writing a letter. She has henna on one hand, and is wearing a white hijab.
Thahmina is crouching on the floor and laying out 10 A4 pieces of paper on the floor. They are letters addressed ‘Dear Racist…’
An image of a young girl smiling with a Palestinian flag painted on her cheek.
An image of someone holding a stick of charcoal in front of a drawing that shows a stable ladder reaching up into the sky, but the ladder is broken and disappears halfway up.
An image of someone painting two portraits. One shows a faceless Brown woman in a hijab and the other is a blonde white woman with blue eyes.
An image of two clay figures. The first is lying down and the second is kneeling at their neck with their hands appearing to cover the lying figure’s mouth
“… educate yourself on how to stop being racist. I would like you to meet Muslims in the community and talk to them and understand how your actions affect people mentally and physically. I think you should also educate your kids, friends, family and people of similar mindset to you. I think you should go on a restorative justice programme to get closure for yourself and victims of racism.”

Further support

Please see these links below that signpost other services for additional support around issues raised in the above content.

Discover the other PANIC! bursary artists

This work is presented as part of the PANIC! (Promoting an Artists' Network in the Crisis) series of bursaries.

Earlier this year, PANIC! awarded four artists in Leeds City Region £5,000 and £1,000 bursaries to support the making of a new contemporary visual artwork or project. The bursaries offered space to create a voice and help us think through the new psychological, social and cultural conditions we face today.

For the £1,000 bursaries:

Kevin Devonport and Hannah Lawless

For the £5,000 bursaries:

alabamathirteen and Thahmina Begum

See their work here

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