Rhona Ezuma’s independent magazine THIIIRD has become an invaluable safe-space for marginalised groups. The publication’s prioritisation of intersectional feminism and in making sure underrepresented people are being heard also makes it an important and invaluable presence within the field of arts and culture. In our interview with her she discusses the role of arts and culture in addressing social issues, the ways in which cultural conversations are being pushed, and the magazine’s podcast THIIIRD Waves.
Could you please start by introducing yourself to our readers?
I’m Rhona Ezuma, the founder and editor-in-chief of THIIIRD Magazine. I’m also a freelance creative and work in fashion, music and film as a stylist, costume designer and creative director.
You founded THIIIRD Magazine in 2017, with the objective of creating a platform upon which to amplify the voices and creative talents of marginalised groups, as well as promoting an understanding of the importance of diversity being much more than box-ticking and quota-filling. How has it been watching THIIIRD grow and become such a valued space for the groups it aims to serve?
It’s been everything. The main reason we started THIIIRD was wanting to create work that spoke to people like us, who were being overlooked in publishing visually and in the content. We wanted to find a way to celebrate all of us and push for solidarity. From the very beginning, our platform’s been very informed by intersectional feminist and post-colonial thought, which are both about challenging marginalisation, so to be told that we’ve helped make people with our backgrounds feel seen and heard is huge. But it’s also really special to us that we are appreciated by people who consider themselves allies, because culture should be able to be appreciated by any type of person, and we’ve all got to do the work together if we want change.
Did you always have the vision of creating your own publication or did the prospect emerge out of other circumstances?
Not, really. I’d always been a fan of magazines. I had experience in both journalism and photography, so had been involved in those worlds but I didn’t necessarily see myself creating one. I saw myself first as a storyteller — a creative and a communicator. It was really circumstance that put me into the seat of editor-in-chief, but at first, I was intimidated.
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Amelia Karlsen
What do you see as the role of art and culture in addressing societal issues, particularly those related to diversity and representation?
Arts and culture has a massive role in making people aware and giving them the opportunity to understand things about themselves and others in different lights. It’s how we collectively reimagine, empathise, come to accept and even [provokes] outrage. You think about any film, or book, or body of work that’s come out in the last five years that’s had an impact and, in some way, it’s done one of those things. You think about how crazy people went for Black Panther - that was [a] Marvel film and as mainstream as it comes, however it got us to see Africa and superheroes as something that could be Black and powerful. So, representation really matters but so does subject matter, and how arts and culture can help us understand inequalities around the world.
I feel that independent magazines, particularly those such as THIIRD, that promote marginalised voices are so important in terms of preventing discourses within the media becoming homogeneous as well as keeping it in tune with people’s realities. In your view, what role do these independent magazines play in shaping the broader cultural conversation?
The media landscape can be very middle-brow when it comes to what they say and the way it covers topics. As an independent platform we are the opposite. We want to be the place that captures the feelings, concerns and interests that feels zeitgeist and we aren’t afraid to have a standpoint or talk about things that would feel risky in the mainstream, but everyone is feeling. I think that’s something a lot independent magazines do well.
But to be specific to us, our goals are also changing in regards to how we push cultural conversation. When we started THIIIRD our eyes were really focused on representation and showing what we could not see, but as we’ve seen the bar raise there, we’ve pushed that conversation forward and focused on asking how inclusive the creative industries are on a infrastructural level and how it is supporting inclusivity.
Alongside THIIRD magazine producer Daniela Hornskov Sun and DJ Tryb you host the magazine’s podcast: THIIIRD Waves! The podcast “spotlights guests whose expertise and lived experience provide insights on topical issues through the lens of representation, access and privilege”. What was the motivation behind starting the podcast and in what ways does the format encourage further conversations regarding the social barriers that THIIIRD addresses?
New mediums have always provided new opportunities for us. Our print issues are beautiful, intensive projects, but our podcast has given a space for us to be more topical and talk to people who do not necessarily come from an arts and culture space, like Dr Rahma Elmahdi who spoke to us about the role decolonisation has in making medicine serve ethnic minorities better. It’s been exciting for us as we love podcasts, we listen to and recommend loads in our weekly newsletter, so it’s quite nice for us to be able to do our own.
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Silvia Draz
The podcast also features a variety of music as well as closing with a DJ set. In the context of the focus and discussions of the podcast what role does music play in terms of enhancing or contributing to those discussions?
We hosted the podcast on Soho Radio which was why we were able to include music. Tryb is an amazing DJ whose palate for sound is very broad and culturally diverse. Music is a form of expression and communication as good as any. It’s also a very seductive one, because with music, before you understand you will feel, so we’re lucky that in our team we have such a range of talent to bring to life the topics in the content we talk about.
Is there any guest you would particularly love to have on the podcast?
I would love to be able to feature someone like Edward Enninful. We are doing something really amazing with the podcast at the moment. The format of the new shows we’ll be releasing in June are more like roundtables where we unpack on personal experience and I would love to be able to have a person [at the] pinnacle [of] the fashion and publishing industry, who has been at the forefront of change for decades of his career share his story with us [and] insights, especially as a Black gay man.
Congratulations on making the shortlist for British Society of Magazine Editors Diversity & Inclusion Talent Award! Could you talk a bit about the importance of being recognised by such awards for independent magazines such as THIIIRD?
It’s hugely encouraging to be recognised for the work we are doing. When we came out with our first issue, people would ask me whether we were funded or printing as part of a bigger publishing house - no one thought we were doing this independently! Before people were willing to accept that diversity and inclusion was something to be concerned with, we were doing the work of promoting it. People who have been in the industry for years didn’t believe that one of those publications, would have value past a second issue; so it makes me hugely proud to have and have done on our own terms being independent, Black-owned and run by a small team; our existence is my validation but it would be incredibly fulfilling to feel championed on an industry level.
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Kim Lang
On the 21st May THIIIRD, alongside Black Eats LDN, hosted Decolonise Your Wellness the first in a series of events the magazine is running. Could you tell us a bit about the event as well as what other events are in the works for people to look forward to?
We are going to be hosting events in the summer months to bring our Body Movements issue theme to life. We’re producing them with contributors, so have people like Swim Dem crew, Kallie Schutts and NDY partnering with us to bring the events to life. All our events are about getting closer to our community and allowing them to network with each other through experiences that feel special. The Decolonise Your Wellness yoga day is all about getting to experience a more traditional and healing form of yoga, away from the commercialised buzz of it. Then afterward we will have a Swim N Cookout which will be a jam for beginners and confident swimmers.
How do you see THIIIRD Magazine evolving in the future? What are your plans for the magazine?
We describe ourselves as a platform as we have become more than a magazine. We make our own content but we also have the ability to produce and consult to bring huge projects to life, working with huge brands too. Each issue we work with around a hundred different contributors and so we are sitting on diverse, emergent talent. We want to bridge them to other opportunities that help them be recognised, and to continue to support new talents with breakthrough opportunities. Our very first issue was titled community so providing the experiences that allow us to level up the lives of the people who support us is what we will always be about - so if you can come to a THIIIRD event and find your people that is another of our goals.
Finally, are you working on any projects at the moment that you can tell us about?
Our events, the new podcast series and some partnership projects are all in the pipeline. We have a weekly newsletter that goes out every week where you can keep your eyes peeled on for announcements or connect with us on our Instagram.
You can buy the latest edition of THIIIRD Body Movements here.
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Iliana Kanellopoulou
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Iliana Kanellopoulou
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Silvia Draz
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Silvia Draz
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Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle
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Ines Vansteenkiste-Muylle
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Megan K Eagles
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Megan K Eagles