1965 Race Relations Act - Making the Artwork
I have long used textile as a metaphor for the interweaving of narratives, playing on its historical relationship to text, and as a channel for personal or collective identities and histories.
I loved the image of all the Acts on scrolls in the Parliamentary Archives. Connecting these with rolls of fabric, conflating the written and the woven, is the key concept.
I wanted to embed an element of diversity in the image by covering the scrolls in fabrics produced across the world, including the UK. Mixing it up: being mixed myself, I revisited the Britain of my childhood through the adult lens of race relations and it was not an easy experience. However, the Acts stood as a statement of values for a future society. I wanted to contrast this with the complexity of applying these values in an atmosphere of racial tension, discrimination and social change; the formal, neat and ordered versus the tangled, evolving, enriching, human, lived complexity of striving for equality.
Alongside key statements from the legislation, I referenced many people, among them Paul Stephenson, Tony Benn, Doreen Lawrence and the cultural theorist Stuart Hall.
Sources of Inspiration
I emailed a number of known people in the black, asian and minority ethnic sector to name up to five people who they felt has been key to development of positive race relations in the UK. No-one mentioned the Bristol Bus Boycott and I was fascinated how our collective, historical memory lies not in the UK but with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the US. Most people named cultural practitioners like Benjamin Zephaniah, Linton Kwesi Johnson or thinkers like cultural theorist Stuart Hall, and a few political figures came up like Bernie Grant, Naseem Khan and Doreen Lawrence.