London to Erect Statues Celebrating Mass Migration

Sculptures by Thomas J. Price entitled 'Numen (Shifting Votive One, Two and Three)' on July 4, 2017 in Regent's Park, London
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Two large sculptures celebrating mass migration will be unveiled in London next year, the Guardian has revealed.

It was announced Monday, on the UK’s second ever ‘Windrush Day’, that works by artists Thomas J Price and Veronica Ryan will be erected in London’s Hackney borough in 2021. Windrush Day commemorates the beginning of the modern mass migration era in Britain in 1948, and was instituted in 2018 after some members of that original generation of post-war migrant arrivals were detained and deported because of government error, causing a significant scandal.

The pieces, which include a sculpture of fruit and a nine-foot statue of a Hackney local are “a statement of pride” for members of the so-called Windrush generation and their descendants, according to the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville.

The Labour politician said the new works would not be “an answer to the statue conversation” that has emerged with the Black Lives Matter protests, which have seen demonstrators vandalise and tear down sculptures of white figures across the UK.

“But I think it’s an early down payment on righting some of that wrong, and a chance to see more diverse people represented in a public realm,” he said in remarks reported by the Guardian.

Price, whose past works are typified by naturalistic sculptures of BAME males (pictured, above), told the Guardian he hoped the statues would highlight a deficit of non-white statues in Britain, asserting that “representation is incredibly important”.

“It’s been so lacking, we just haven’t had it. You can count on one hand the number of public sculptures of statues of non-white people, and it’s even worse for black people. You have to be Nelson Mandela. It’s incredible. And yet that is just seen as normal,” he said.

His piece, the liberal newspaper reports, will be a nine-foot-tall bronze figure, “created by using photo archives and digital 3D scans” of residents of London’s Hackney borough, the population of which is 40 per cent BAME and 36 per cent white British, according to the last census.

Price commented: “For the people who are here today who are British, but have to answer that question of: ‘Where you really from?’ They can see there’s a sculpture standing nine foot high, looking like someone they know, in the centre of Hackney.”

Montserrat-born sculptor Ryan, meanwhile, has designed statues of fruit and vegetables from the Caribbean, which she said represent the ideas of migration and identity

“I have memories of going to Ridley Road Market with my mother as a child to buy fruit and vegetables, fabrics, and sewing materials,” she said.

“The movement of fruit and vegetables across the globe historically exemplifies the way people have been part of that movement. Many fruit and vegetables have their origins in Asia, and Africa. The perception of origins, and belonging to specific places is an extended part of the conversation.”

Price added that the works would provide people with “a sense of visibility, connectedness, belonging, and an ownership of history that they’ve not been allowed to access fully”, allegedly because it is not taught at British schools.

News of the sculptures came shortly after London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a review of all landmarks in the British capital, and vowed to replace any monuments deemed incompatible with “diversity” with tributes to LGBT and ethnic minority communities.

The controversial mayor has previously pledged support for several new landmarks along these lines, such as a memorial to the Windrush generation, a National Sikh War Memorial, and a memorial for Stephen Lawrence, a black male who was murdered by white men nearly three decades ago.

While slavery worldwide is at an all-time high, with London known as a hotspot for the modern form of this crime, Khan has also demanded the creation of a National Slavery Museum to “fight racism”, which would be focused on Britain’s role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

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