A Windrush Legacy: Art Exhibition

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‘Identity’, ‘Art’, ‘Diversity’, ‘Equality’, ‘Music’, ‘Injustice’, ‘White privilege’…These are some of the recurrent themes I have identified while visiting  “A Windrush Legacy: Contemporary British Caribbean Art Exhibition” on the 6th of June in London.

Nora, our London based ambassador

What is the Windrush? Who is the Windrush generation?

Windrush generation originated from the ship  MV Empire Windrush that arrived to Essex (UK) in June 1948. It was carrying hundreds of immigrants from Caribbean countries (i.e. Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados). These immigrants were encouraged to come to the UK by the British government that claimed to grant them citizenship and right of abode (Goulbourne, 2018).

Around 70 years later, we are currently witnessing a scandal on the way members of the Windrush generation are being treated by the authorities. Many of them, now elders, are facing the threat of deportation, losing their jobs and no longer benefiting from governmental services! Why is that? They have not been recognised as legal British citizens due to a lack of documentation (Al Jazeera news, 2018).

Windrush arrivants
Windrush generation – credits: Nora Abbassi

Windrush Legacy, an exhibition to see in London until 22nd June 2019

Halfway through the exhibition, a small television displaying a video of a man caught my attention. Right after I put the earphones on, I was taken on a journey of history, discovery and identity. The man was the son of the first generation Jamaican immigrants coming to the UK after the 2nd World War. Throughout the video, he highlighted the issues faced by Black people that like his parents, had decided to come to England and work to help rebuild the country. Racial discrimination and abuse targeted them on a daily basis, making them struggle to find something as basic as accommodation in an unwelcoming England. Hostility towards the newcomers often resulted in urban segregation that saw a large number of Caribbean immigrants settling in designated areas of cities like London (i.e. Brixton).

credits: Nora Abbassi

The exhibition encouraged a reflection on the troubled experiences of Caribbean immigrants as well as those of British Caribbean citizens. As illustrated in art piece 1 (on the right) the celebration of culture and national identity can serve as a form of “escapism” from social problems such as racial abuse, social inequality, the Windrush scandal and homelessness.  The widely infamous Caribbean music clearly seem to blow away the worries of a Caribbean man sitting on a sofa and smoking a joint.

“To be young, gifted, Black…And not acknowledged”

The Windrush generation embarked on a journey of hope and wishful expectations. They knew very little about the complex challenges that would overwhelm them upon arrival and in the future.

Nowadays, identities born from the Caribbean diaspora are constantly denouncing a lack of representation of the Black community in Britain. The creative potential, passions and innumerable talents of Black youth are silenced, thus, not acknowledged in British society where value appears to be measured in racial terms.

What should be their birthplace acts as a hostile environment that refuses to recognise their existence. The existence of the first Windrush immigrants, whose dreams based on the promises of a brighter future did not find a fertile ground to grow.

Article nicely written and shared by our London based ambassador, Nora

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