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Art Exhibition

Unforgotten Lives are brought vividly to life by new art works at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), in our Art at the Archive exhibition. Art at the Archive opens on Monday 4 December and runs until Wednesday 24 April. Admission is free.

Featuring five new works by artists Annie-Marie Akussah, Elyssa Rider, and Tara Jerome-Bernabé whose art brings to life the stories of people of colour from London’s past.

Artist, Tara Jerome-Bernabé, says "I hope that people will feel that my work illuminates the sentiment behind the Unforgotten Lives exhibition and the importance of bringing these individuals to light so that we can continue to create better foundations of our historical understandings of that time."

The Artwork

Annie-Marie Akussah presents three-dimensional artwork that uses archival maps and images of landscapes that Black abolitionist Quobna Ottobah Cuguoano would have encountered - like the landscape of Ajumayo-Enyan-Essian as well as the West and East India Docks - to confront the unknown, the new land.

Elyssa Rider displays oil portraits of Ann Duck, whose face has been forgotten but her criminal past preserved in the court records of the Old Bailey, and an imagined Japanese woman, to re-address the absence of East-Asian women in the archive.

Tara Jerome-Bernabé reimagines the lives and images of young black servants who were enslaved and made to work in aristocratic families as ‘houseboys’. Their new woven painting hopes to start a peaceful and more natural connection to the individuals trapped in certain derogatory paintings of the sixteenth to eighteenth century.

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage, and Libraries Committee, Munsur Ali, said:

“In the same way that the team behind ‘Unforgotten Lives’ are to be congratulated for curating such a superb exhibition, Annie-Marie, Tara, and Elyssa deserve our gratitude for using their considerable skills to interpret these people’s lives and introduce us to them – many of us for the first time."

“While appreciating the beauty in their art works, we would do well to remember the ugliness of racism, the despicable trade in human beings, and the extreme hardship that the people featured in these pieces, and many others before and after them, had to endure.”

The Inspiration: Unforgotten Lives exhibition

Art at the Archive brought together three artists to produce artworks which respond to, reflect on, or is inspired by our Unforgotten Lives exhibition. Unforgotten Lives unveils the stories of Londoners of African, Caribbean, Asian and Indigenous heritage who lived and worked in the city between 1560 and 1860; their experiences etched into the very fabric of London’s archives.

Our exhibition is a tapestry of these lives - weaving together vibrant threads of love, family, ambition, and resilience, juxtaposed with the stark realities of discrimination and injustice.

The Power of Art in Archival Spaces – Why Art at the Archive?

Archives typically lack the voices of everyday individuals; instead, they primarily focus on discussing people in a formal, institutionalised manner. Art, on the other hand, provides a means to respond and imbue the official narratives with the previously unheard voices of the marginalised. Archival documents can look visually dull and be difficult to engage with. Art offers an opportunity to humanise these sources, put a face to the record and bring to life the stories of people of colour across time. Art can also provide an opportunity to critically and creatively fill archival gaps and silences and offer new ways to counter harmful historical misrepresentations.

Inviting Artists to Respond

The Art at the Archive project was borne out of a desire to bring the transformative power of art into our archival spaces through commissioning creative responses to our Unforgotten Lives exhibition. Our call for artists from all walks of life led to the selection of our three chosen artists who each represent diverse backgrounds and create within a range of mediums.

Unforgotten Lives exhibition

Free exhibition - runs until 24 April

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