Diversity, what importance does it actually hold in the performing arts? 

Diversity in theatre. Cast of We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/Guardian
Diversity in theatre. Cast of ‘We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia’. Photo: Tristram Kenton/Guardian


Am I bitter in saying that diversity is a word crafted by the ruling white class and used as an instrument to control the ethnic minorities from retaliating over inequality?

Well, you might think other but I believe it is so.

It’s moronic to think that as a society, we have moved beyond race boundaries in the arts or in general. Though a majority of us have agreed to move into this age of viewing the world with an egalitarian mindset, we can all admit that there is a colonised mindset still living and thriving in our society. And though racism isn’t as highly kindled as it once was, subconsciously its presence sometimes can be felt in our midst.

This year’s Oscars ceremony has proven this to me with their all white nominees in most categories. The previous year’s awards show was praised for its equality with ’12 Years A Slave’ taking home three awards, but let’s not forget the film was produced by prominent men in the business, with one of them being the acclaimed and renowned Brad Pitt. With Brad tied to another film carrying a weighty racial inequality message, a particular anticipation was in the air as the Oscars approached. However, soon after the nominees were released the excitement turned to racial sourness and the hashtag ‘#boycottoscars’ soon became the talk of Twitter.

This preceding year in film, we saw portrayals of admirable men. All were expecting the nominees within the category for best actor, to have been actors that portrayed these men. Though, this wasn’t the case. The nominees within this category were: Steve Carell (Foxcatcher), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game), Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything).

However, many others and I were expecting the race to be between; Cumberbatch who depicts cryptanalyst Alan Turing, Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking and David Oyelewo’s depiction of humanitarian and activist Martin Luther King Jr. But as you have seen this wasn’t the case. At first I thought that Oyelewo’s representation of Dr. King would have been to blame. However, this again wasn’t the case.
The Oxford-born actor’s performance was pleasant, as we saw him neglect his well-pressed English accent for the civil rights leader’s charismatic and authoritative Georgian accent, and at some point in the film you can almost mistake the film for a documentary instead of a biopic.

David Oyelewo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Photograph: Paramount Vantage
David Oyelewo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Photo: Paramount Vantage

In the theatre, Martin Luther King’s passion for people could be felt through Oyelewo’s moving performance. At the end of the film, when the lights came up, a layer of sentiment covered the whole theatre like dew.

Some spectators nearby, soaked and overwhelmed by the spectacular journey the film took them through, broke into tears. While others clapped with utmost solemnness as though the whole cast was present to hear their ovation.

Leaving the theatre, I was left with the thought of the possibility of others being impacted by the film the same way I and many other viewers were inspired. Nonetheless, I wasn’t going to allow myself to be prejudice towards the other films. So I went and saw them and I could say with the utmost respect, this year was a very tough year for the Oscar judges.

Still, an argument can be made against their judgement. Instigating that their decisions were biased. According to Horn, et al., (2015) of the LA Times “a [Los Angeles Times] study found that academy voters are markedly less diverse than moviegoing public, and even more monolithic than many in the film industry may suspect. Oscar voters are nearly 94% Caucasian and 77% male.” This can only suggest one thing: white supremacists exercising their power. The study concluded with Blacks and Latinos making up the rest of the 4%.

Selma theatrical release poster. Photograph: Paramount Pictures.
Selma theatrical release poster. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

We all know well that art is a tool of propaganda and in the past it has been used as a tool of change.

From the amount of racial homicide that has occurred in America during the last couple of years by the police force; you would have thought that a film such as Selma was ordained for such a time as this and its message would have been a reverberating sound difficult to neglect. Therefore, one might suggest that the white judges who have the same views as the police forces decide to suppress a film which preaches equality from reaching its best. And then to balance the equilibrium of equality in our society they opt to stage a public apology by main eventing Common and John Legend’s performance of ‘Glory’ – a song written and composed for Selma – which felt heavily contrasted to the whole award show.

Now another question arises for me; should the black community pardon the Academy Award ceremonies for their lack of nominated black artist? A question I’ve been asking myself for the last couple of months. It is evident that they are trying to be apologetic to the black community, but should we trust them?

Presently predicting the future of the Oscars from where I’m sat writing this article. I can boldly say, I see an all-white dominated show again. What do you think?

Chris is an Arts writer and photographer with keen interests in culture, arts and international relations.


*Last updated: 16/10/2016 



Christopher Omale
Posted by:Christopher Omale