The Afro Caribbean people who came to the UK in the 1940s to the 1970s-known as the Windrush generation after the first ship MV Empire Windrush that brought them from Jamaica, Trinidad and other West Indies islands- have suffered a lot in the last few years at the hands of successive Tory governments.
They were victims of the ” hostile environment” policy to immigrants set up by home secretary Theresa May in 2012 and continued to this day by Priti Patel ( herself from a family of Ugandan Asian refugees) they wrongly faced deportation, loss of jobs and homes after living in this country for more than 50 years because they were never issued with documents. Many were wrongly deported.
So it was rather good that an inventive Afro-Caribbean artist Everton Wright (Evewright) decided to launch an amazing art and sound installation as a tribute to that generation. He also based the exhibition at the port of Tilbury in Essex – the very place where MV Empire Windrush docked in 1948 and used the original walkway – still there – where what are known as the elders of Windrush made landfall in the United Kingdom.
It is an immersive visual art experience, installed on 432 panes of glass collaged with photographs, documents, original boat passenger tickets and memorabilia. The artwork is installed in an original passenger walkway 55 metres long. As you walk through, you can listen to audio stories about the lives of some of the elders whose images are featured in the installation. See http://www.evewrightarts.org
Sadly vandals this month broke into the exhibition and smashed many of the exhibits and damaged the walkway where it has held. This is some of the damage:
The artist himself is keeping the exhibition open leaving the damage for all those to see.
Everton Wright said: “This artwork is made as a celebration of the lives and endeavours of Caribbean elders, from the Windrush Generation. It has been created through the need to preserve their stories and first-hand accounts so future generations can understand the importance of the contributions they made to Britain. This work has received an overwhelming positive response from the public and those who contributed their stories and images. The feedback from the public is heartfelt knowing these stories where being told. Yet there are a few who choose to damage this beautiful work.
” This is a targeted hate crime targeted towards the Windrush Generation. Who themselves had to show resilience in the face of the racism and barriers many of them experienced. I intend to keep the damage windows in place on the installation as a visible reminder of the hate and bigotry towards those that are seen as “other and foreigner” that still unfortunately still exists in our society today.
Essex Police have launched a criminal investigation: “
Essex Police has urged anyone with information to contact them and said it would “not stand by while people commit crimes in our communities”.
Supt Naomi Edwards, of the force, said: “Myself and colleagues at Essex Police were extremely saddened to hear that such a culturally and historically significant art exhibition has been subject to damage – this is unacceptable on every level.”These offences had not been reported to Essex Police, rather they had been reported to our colleagues at the Port of London Authority Police.
“However, such is our concern at these incidents, that we are working alongside our policing colleagues to support their investigation and are undertaking enquiries to establish who may be responsible in order that we can arrest them and bring them to justice.”
So far nobody has been arrested but the organisation say the police are treating it as a hate crime.
Contrast this coverage with the toppling of the Edward Colston statute
I cannot but contrast the coverage of this event in the media with the national coverage given to the toppling of the statute of Edward Colston, the Bristol slave trader, in a Black Lives Matter demonstration. This was given saturation coverage in the nationals and on TV and was linked to the debate on ” woke” and ” culture wars”.
This incident was only covered on local BBC TV, The Voice and as far as I can see, the Independent. I don’t need to make any further comment.
Very sad to hear of this,ignorant people who know no better,hope it can be repaired,it’s a pity they could not have learned a little from this art work.
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that would be the Edward Colston who worked for the slave trading company set up by Charles 11, and was then taken on by James. trying to judge standards of the 17th century 400 years later is ridiculous.
Barry, you seem to have missed the point. David was referring to the contrast in media coverage of two near-contemporary events of “violence against property” involving conflicting interpretations of our history.
The toppling of Colston’s statue wasn’t simply a response to Colston’s participation in the slave trade and the morality of uncritically celebrating the profitability of his ventures; it was also a response to the foot-dragging of the custodians of the statue and their reluctance to engage with an alternative perception of the statue and the issues raised by its history. Nevertheless much of the significant media coverage focused on what was seen as being a disrespectful imposition of partisan and arguably unhistorical values.
The vandalisation of Wright’s work that David describes is very clearly a disrespectful imposition of partisan values for which no historical justification is even offered. David’s point is that it appears to have attracted very little media attention.
The difference in the level of coverage tells us something about media values and what appears to be the selectivity of their moral concern. There’s nothing ridiculous about that, it’s a serious and important issue.
Per John Berger, art is about “ways of seeing”. I reckon Everton Wright has done the right thing in keeping the work in place, damage and all. David Hencke describes the “old work” as offering a location-sensitive insight into the historical Windrush experience. The “new work” is an albeit unintentional collaboration between Wright and the vandals that lets us see and understand the underlying racist intransigence that is such a significant aspect of the reality of Windrush.
Everton Wright and David Hencke have helped fill the gap left by the conventional media’s inadequate reporting of events that cast light on the modern legacy of slavery and colonialism. Thanks to them for that. It would be nice if Everton Wright could do something with VR that would make the encounter with both of the “works” permanently accessible to a wider audience. .
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Owen you have got my point easily. If BBC Essex had the footage of all this, all the BBC had to do was make it a national news item. The fact they didn’t -compared to the fuss over the Colston statue – seems to say it all.
Also I have met Everton – he is a very talented guy. He put on a popup exhibition at the Migration Museum project – ( I am a friend of the Museum) called the Caribbean Takeaway Takeover – where he reproduced a typical Afro-Caribbean kitchen – which is the cultural hub of a West Indian home and had enormous resonance with Afro-Caribbeans who came to see the exhibition there.
(David, there isn’t a Reply button on your reply, so I don’t know where this reply will appear in relation to yours) In the past BBC national news has sometimes given the impression that it follows a daily agenda largely set for it by the tabloid news headlines. I wonder how the BBC governors would react to the suggestion that this failure to engage with issues and events that aren’t high-profile enough to interest the predominantly right-wing and often racially divisive tabloids is not too far from being a form of institutional racism.
Thanks for this, David. No outraged comment and threats of retribution yet from #NoddingDorries?
**@$£!!! The mentality of people that do these things never ceases to disgust me. What is worse though it”s been actively encouraged by government over the last couple of decades….
I was never issued with documents either. You didn’t need them in a free society but that started to change during the 90s…..
Reblogged this on Tory Britain! .
This is disgusting! However, the contrast of the contributions made by these people with the contemporary racist hatred, shown by leaving the damage, makes it all the more effective. I’m sorry that this is still reflective of our society. Will we ever be rid of these morons if the media does not give equal coverage to these acts of vandalism? I doubt it.