Black Country Visual Arts ground breaking arts project makes headlines in local press. The double page article highlights the importance of the project within the community and goes on to interview some of the participants. This was an opportunity for them to tell their stories first hand. Award winning author Sathnam Sanghera said he was pleased to see that Black Country Visual Arts was attempting to tell migrants stories through its Exodus project.
We had fantastic turn out for our launch evening at Bantock House Museum for Exodus 'Movement of a People' . It was great to see the participants, family and friends along with special guests attend an evening of celebration. The Express and Star also came along to interview and photograph the participants for a special article. BCVA would like to thank all of our guests for making it such a special event.
The display of black and white images in the community gallery was a focal point for many stories of the past. During the evening it came to light that a lot of the participants knew each other from the 1960's !
This was the first time that the new portraits were seen by the subjects themselves and were greatly received by both themselves and family members. For most this was a first time experience in a gallery environment and all have vowed to come back and showcase the exhibition to others in the community. This is a resounding success for BCVA in our goal to engage more diverse audiences within visual arts.
As part of Black Country Visual Arts artists Anand Chhabra and Sarvjit Sra have worked closely with first generation migrants of South Asian origin in Wolverhampton. They have created a collection of photographs by carefully selecting and scanning the personal albums of 17 families.
Within the main gallery space (ground floor) the artists have on display 12 recent portraits of migrants that arrived in the 1960’s. The participants are holding some of the earliest images of themselves along with descendants holding images commemorating family members who have passed on since arrival.
The Community Gallery (first floor) houses the collection of scanned black and white images that represent the communities that we have reached as part of our research. The images show a community at social and cultural events in those early days.
Through this method of scanning and taking new photographic portraits the aim of the artists has been to tell a story of what people looked like then and now. We have set out our exhibition to create an imprint on our audience about a group of migrants who put down roots, integrated with life, work and play around them, making a lasting impact to the city.
Going forward our aim is to create an installation called ‘Arrivals Hall’ which will consist of a life size airport luggage conveyor belt carrying the black and white images. This will be a touring installation with an actual rotating conveyor belt with printed images. The moving belt signifies the arrival and onward movement of a people. The installation will include a separate series of current portraits of the participants.
We would like to thank the following for their support during our research: Arts Council England, Multistory, Wolverhampton City Archives, Bantock House Museum, BM Autoparts, Humjoli Ladies Group (Dunstall), Kaleidoscope Group (Pennfields), St Chads Ladies Group (Cherry St), Park Village Ladies Group (Park Village).
During our search for photographs and ephemera we came across a document dated 26th April 1963 sent from 'Office of the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom'. This is a great example of the type of correspondence that took place at the time of migration in the 1960's.
BCVA teamed up with St Luke's school in Blakenhall Wolverhampton to talk about their "Exodus" project and the installation we want to create with our collection of images. The children had brought in their vintage photographs and talked about why the photographs were meaningful to them.
The workshop included making our own photographs using a Fujifilm Instax camera. The children were amazed with the analogue instant prints, no delete button here ! Some of the children had never seen an instant print !
Overall the workshop was a great success and we felt that the children learned the importance of taking pictures, creating memories and actually handling prints. A big thank you to Clare Williams, Staff and especially the children at St Luke's school.
In April Anand and Sarvjit were invited as live studio guests by the BBC WM Midland Masala radio show. We were interviewed by DJ Qasa about our 'Exodus' project and reasons behind it. This was a great opportunity that allowed us to reach out to over 250,000 listeners !
We had a warm welcome at Dunstall ladies group along with a lovely cup of tea ! Over the last few months we have built up a good relationship with the group that resulted in the sharing of great photographs, memories and stories.
During our visits we have collected some fantastic images from the Dunstall group that will be used as part of the R&D for the 'Exodus' project.