Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 25 November 2020

Windrush Day: First sculptures honouring UK's Caribbean immigrants are to be unveiled in London next year

The move comes after London's mayor announced a new commission to improve the diversity of the city's public landmarks

Veronica Ryan will produce marble and bronze statues based on Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Hackney Council
Veronica Ryan will produce marble and bronze statues based on Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Hackney Council

Earlier this month, the statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down by Black Lives Matter protestors in Bristol, England and thrown into the nearby floating harbour.

It sparked a spate of similar actions across the country, as well as lively debate about what type of people should be put on a pedestal and cast in bronze.

It also inspired London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, to announce a commission to review and improve diversity across the city's public landmarks.

Now, it has been announced that two new sculptures will be installed next year, honouring the UK's Caribbean immigrants.

The visionary work of these artists helps us to demonstrate how much we value the role arts and culture play in expressing our identity

Philip Glanville, the mayor of Hackney

This will include a 2.7-metre-tall figure that will stand outside the borough of Hackney's town hall.

They will be the first permanent artworks to honour this huge segment of Britain's society when they are unveiled in 2021.

The artworks are being created by leading black artists Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan.

“This is an amazing opportunity to show how people connected to Windrush are part of the very fabric of this country," Price, who was born and raised in London and whose grandmother was from Jamaica, said in a post on Instagram.

"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.”

He plans to use photographic archives, observations and digital 3D scans of Hackney residents to create his bronze figure. He says it will be a "larger-than-life physical representation of people from the African Caribbean diaspora" and will be a "bold celebration of the legacy and cultural influence of the Windrush generation, while also seeking to address the disproportionate lack of statues representing black citizens in the UK".

Ryan, whose parents emigrated to the UK from Montserrat, is creating a series of marble and bronze sculptures that will depict Caribbean fruit and vegetables reminiscent of those she saw in east London's markets growing up.

"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."

She said the use of produce in her work incorporates themes of migration and movement.

Philip Glanville, the mayor of Hackney, said the new public artworks were a "real statement of pride" for the borough.

"The visionary work of these artists helps us to demonstrate how much we value the role arts and culture play in expressing our identity and interpreting this essential part of our collective story."

Who are the Windrush generation?

The announcement of the new sculptures coincides with Windrush Day, which takes place on Monday, June 22.

The commemorative day was introducing in 2018 to mark the 70th anniversary of the migration of Caribbean people who moved to the UK in the late 1940s.

They had been invited to Britain by the government to help rebuild the nation after the Second World War.

However, in 2017, their descendants were placed at the centre of a scandal as they struggled to prove citizenship status under tough new immigration laws.

Updated: June 23, 2020 10:42 AM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email