Migration is series of portraits paying tribute to immigrants who have made the UK their home. The subjects, who include a market employee, an artist and a human rights activist are everyday people making positive contributions to their local communities. A total of 10 portraits will be painted around the UK. After Brexit, and the national conversation around immigration, I have been inspired to celebrate and tell the human stories of the people who are the soul of some of the communities that make our metropolises the culturally rich, cosmopolitan cities that they are.
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 alot 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 fulfills 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 allot 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