Migration is series of murals portraying first generation immigrants who have made the UK their home. The subjects include a market employee, an artist and a human rights activist. A total of 10 portraits will be painted on the streets of the UK. After Brexit, and with the national conversation around immigration, I have been inspired to show the human face, and tell the stories of individuals, from the communities that make up the UK’s diverse immigrant population.
Brixton, London SW9
Dimensions: 20ft x 17ft
Originally from Grenada Michael has been working in the community for over 2 decades. Michael arrived in the UK in August of 1986 to join his pregnant partner, and worked tirelessly to ensure economic security for his new family. This was a world away from the small island of Grenada in the south Caribbean, but like so many of the patrons and proprietors Michael has found a true place in the vibrant melting-pot that is Brixton market.
Michael is an integral part of the market community and without him the market wouldn’t function. During the reopening ceremony of Electric Avenue in October 2016, he was presented with the ‘Keys to Brixton Market’ by the council. There has been a lot of change in Brixton, as there has been across the capital, in particular with many local residents angry with the gentrification of the area and recent forced evictions of traders in Brixton Arches. Michael’s presence and sense of responsibility for the community’s wellbeing has been a constant throughout these changes and a reminder of the ‘old’ Brixton. I wanted to celebrate Michael for his commitment, generous spirit and the numerous other roles he fulfils for the many people he interacts with on a daily basis.
Thanks to Caroline Hill and Brixton Design Trail for making this happen. Big up to Solo One, Ben Jay Crossman and Rocket ship digs for all their support, and the amazing people of Brixton for all the love.
Photo : Sanaa Abstrakt
Watch the work in progress video HERE
Virginia Rd, Shoreditch, London E2 7NG
The second subject from my ‘Migration’ series is the internationally acclaimed British-Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj. Often referred to as the “Andy Warhol of Marrakech”, Hassan is best known for his colorful photographic portraits. His celebrated works, a vibrant fusion of tradition and pop-culture, have been exhibited at the V&A, British Museum and Somerset House.
Hassan was born in in 1961 in Larache, a harbor town in northern Morocco. His father migrated to England in the 60s, so he spent his formative years with his mother, auntie, grandma and sisters. He moved to London in 1973 aged 12 to join his father. He recalls it as being a tough time, where he was unable to speak English and was immersed in a new culture, in a time where London wasn’t as cosmopolitan as it in today.
As Hassan joined the burgeoning west London migrant community he felt very much a foreigner and many of the people he befriended were people who had had a similar journey and shared experiences of being the outsider. In this period he made a lot of friends, many from the Caribbean as well as India and Pakistan, and says that they stuck together and looked after one another. He went on to run a street wear brand called R.A.P, club nights and worked as fashion stylist.
Hassan is self-taught with his work drawing from a mix of influences including London’s hip-hop and reggae scenes and his North African heritage. His interdisciplinary practice includes photography, installation, performance, fashion, filmmaking, sculpture, music, handcrafted objects and furniture. He often uses utilitarian objects from Morocco such as paint pots made into stools and cans turned into lamps. These days Hassan is based in London half the year, where he runs his shop Larache in Shoreditch, and spends the rest of his working life in Marrakech. His work is undoubtedly a result of this clash of cultures.
Larache is like an Aladdin’s cave of all things Hassan, where I am always welcomed with tea and conversations with new faces. I love that he hires local tailors and artisans to manufacture his work. If he is able to help open some doors for local artisans and the younger generation of creatives, he is happy to do so, understanding that the exchange is of mutual benefit to all.
Photo: Daphna Stern
The 3rd subject from the Migration Series is human rights activist Fatima Najm, founder of Creatives Against Poverty. Fatima was born in Pakistan and raised between Karachi and Sharjah, U.A.E. She now lives in London and has spent the last 11 years supporting marginalised communities across the globe including Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, in some of the world’s most harrowing conflict, disaster or urban poverty zones.
She trains Ngos working with war-ravaged communities to deal with frustrations, drawing out resentment to move towards creating a conflict-free community. When the CAP team finds themselves dealing with trauma in chaotic or dangerous environments, they use comedy, theatre, music and art to disarm the resistance they encounter.
In London, Fatima sits on the education panel at the Prince’s Trust, advising the organisation on programs that inspire young people to unlock their potential.
Fatima also works with grassroots Ngos to help refugees and asylum seekers acquire the skills they need to integrate into British society.
Fatima writes a ‘living/breathing” Life Skills curriculum that helps young people examine their choices, develop critical thinking skills and make positive changes in their lives.
The Cap team this unique curriculum to support a diverse cross-section of clients including: young people exposed to knife crime, ex-offenders, rough sleepers, child-labourers, children of war, girls sold into marriage or slavery and the families of honour-crime targets. In Pakistan alone, CAP’ life skills programs train 50 thousand young people to negotiate for their rights through a set of local Ngo partners including DIL .
Fatima feels privileged to work with skilled volunteers from the UK and all over the world, all of whom pour endless energy into creating meaningful change. .
In London, CAP work predominantly in North and East London with Fatima living round the corner from the painting in Soho.
Thx to Montana Colors for the support.