Hackney Council has revealed that the borough will take pride of place next year with two new public artworks – the first perpetual monuments in the UK to honor the Windrush Generation.
A panel of residents, campaigners, artists, architects and local councillors including Hackney’s Windrush lead, Cllr Carole Williams, chose individual sculptures by Veronica Ryan and Thomas J Price.
Today’s announcement comes on National Windrush Day, and follows an extensive two-year consultation process, as well as the recent anti-racist reckoning of worldwide statues and monuments.
Thomas J Price will use photo archives and digital 3D scans to create a large-scale bronze sculpture located outside the Town Hall in the center of Hackney.
His larger-than – life physical representation of people from the African Caribbean diaspora will be a bold celebration of the Windrush generation’s legacy and cultural influence, while also attempting to address the disproportionate shortage of sculptures representing Black citizens in the UK.
Price said: “This is an amazing opportunity to show how people connected to Windrush are part of the very fabric of this country. I feel honoured to be part of this celebration of its legacy, especially as my Jamaican grandmother came over as a nurse.”
He added: “I am very excited to work with the people of Hackney on this project, and it’s my hope that this piece will challenge social perceptions and receive engagement from audiences that are often left out of traditional gallery environments.”
Veronica Ryan is to create a series of large sculptures of marble and bronze depicting Caribbean fruit and vegetables.
On her inspiration, she said: “I have memories of going to Ridley Road Market with my mother as a child to buy fruit and vegetables, fabrics, and sewing materials. Little did I know, those early experiences would become essential material for my practice as an artist.
“I remember as a toddler during the 1950s the difficulties my young hopeful parents from Montserrat dealt with, navigating a new country and often inhospitable circumstances.”
The council says the works are intended to serve as a permanent expression of solidarity with the Windrush Generation, recognizing the tremendous contribution they have made to life in Hackney and the United Kingdom, and symbolizing the borough’s ongoing commitment to providing refuge to migrants around the world.
Cllr Carole Williams, the Town Hall’s lead on Windrush, said: “To see Hackney become home to two new pieces of art belonging to two different generations of the Windrush community is something we take pride in.”
She added: “We’re proud to be home to one of the largest Black British populations in the UK and we’re committed to recognizing the ongoing contributions they bring through celebration, support and honor.
“The announcement of our Windrush artworks is another example of how we stand by those commitments and insist on visibility and gratitude to Black British people within our civic and accessible spaces.”
Today’s news follows a recent decision by the council to review the statue role and naming landmarks, street names, parks, and other public spaces across the borough.
The Home Museum also holds a public consultation on the future of a statue above its entrance to Sir Robert Geffrye, a merchant engaged in the slave trade whose money was used to build almshouses for the museum.
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said of the new artworks: “Since 2018 we have been in conversations with cultural experts and our local community about the commission and the significance it brings to not only our borough but the story of Black History in the UK.
“While our commitment to this work has long predated the current debate about better and more diverse representation in the public sphere, we’re proud, as we undergo our review of landmarks and naming of public spaces, to be able to make this announcement on Windrush Day 2020.
“It is a clear example of our ongoing efforts to reflect on and celebrate our migrant history, recognising it and Black History as an essential and valued part of Hackney and who we are as a borough.”
Hackney became the first local authority in the UK to pass a motion on the Windrush Generation in August 2018, pledging to oppose the criminalization of Windrush families, calling for an end to immigration policies of ‘hostile environment,’ and vowing to support those affected by them.
The Council’s award-winning annual Windrush Generations Festival is now live online, featuring songs recorded by Windrush residents of the first generation, an intergenerational storytelling project, and rare interviews with Caribbean migrants who worked for the NHS and Transport for London, courtesy of Hackney Museum and Hackney Archive.
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