Officials in London unveiled a permanent public monument celebrating the Windrush Generation in the East London borough of Hackney today.
The sculptures by artist Veronica Ryan, Custard Apple (Annonaceae), Breadfruit (Moraceae), andSoursop (Annonaceae) (2021), depict three Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Authorities believe it to be the first permanent monument celebrating the generation of migrant workers who came to the U.K. from the Caribbean during the postwar period to help boost its depleted labor market.
The works have been installed at a time during when the public has increasingly questioned who is represented and celebrated in our built environment, and amid a growing demand for London’s monuments to reflect the diversity of its communities.
“Cultural visibility and representation evident in public spaces is crucial. I am very happy that my sculptures will be part of this recognition,” Ryan said in a statement. “Ridley Market here in Hackney remains a vibrant place of early excitement going shopping with my mother, I don’t often get along to the market now, but have been so happy to buy some lovely soursops and custard apples on recent visits.”
“I like the fact that the community in Hackney will see some familiar fruit and vegetables represented in the sculptures, and always enjoy these connections,” Ryan added.
Veronica Ryan OBE, Custard Apple (Annonaceae) (2021). Courtesy the artist, Paula Cooper Gallery and Alison Jacques. Photo: Andy Keate, 2021.
The local council commissioned the large marble and bronze sculptures with Create London as part of its Black History Season, and they are sited near the borough’s St. Augustine’s Tower and Hackney’s vibrant Ridley Road Market.
The works are part of the council’s wider public program about Windrush, which includes street exhibitions highlighting community stories from the generation and its descendants, named after the HMT Empire Windrush ship, which docked in Essex in 1948 with more than 500 immigrant workers on board.
“It is incredibly important that we have public art that anyone can identify with,” the mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, said. “Veronica’s piece will be in the heart of Hackney and will be seen by thousands each day. I have no doubt that it will become a meeting point and a topic of conversation and, in the process, will help keep alive the story of the Windrush generation and their descendants for many years to come.”
Another sculpture celebrating the Windrush Generation, by artist Thomas J. Price, is due to be unveiled on June 22, 2022, to mark National Windrush Day.
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