Spotlight: LDN WMN in the East
If you’re hanging around Shoreditch, Brick Lane or Liverpool Street this weekend, make sure you head to the original artworks commissioned as part of LDN WMN – the free public art programme we’ve been helping to curate, produce and install across the capital with Tate Collective and the GLA (Greater London Authority). The new artworks also form part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s year-long #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign for diversity, and recognise the impact that unsung women heroes have had on the history of the capital.
Here we spotlight the art you can see in East London and the surrounding areas, , but you can find more information on london.gov.uk/ldnwmn about all the artworks.
Mala Sen by Jasmin Sehra, Brick Lane, The Old Truman Brewery
Drawing on the bright colours and contrasting type of vintage Bollywood posters, Jasmin Sehra’s mural celebrates the life of Indian-British writer and activist Mala Sen. The piece highlights Sen’s contribution not just to the surrounding area, but also her lifelong campaigning for women’s rights. She was an active member of the British Asian and British Black Panther movements, and effected social change with her writing – reporting on Bangladeshis working in sweatshops in the east end in the 1970s, and the victimisation of women in rural India in 2001. Sehra has incorporated elements not just from Sen’s own life, but from the lives of those she sought to change, surrounding them by flowers and butterflies – chosen as symbols of freedom. Sen was particularly active in the east end of London, exposing the poor conditions of sweatshop workers who often had to share beds in dormitories, as they didn’t qualify for accommodation. She played a key role in establishing the Bengali Housing Action Group, which helped turn Brick Lane into a safer, more welcoming area for the Bangladeshi community. In response to this, Sehra’s artwork takes over a busy part of the pavement not far from the Old Truman Brewery.
East End Suffragettes by Joey Yu, Shoreditch Art Wall, Village Underground
East London played an important part in the suffragette movement, home to several branches of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), and later the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS) which focused on working women’s rights. The group – headed up by Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline Pankhurst – led the campaign to improve pay, working conditions and housing, amongst other issues. As well as hosting huge meetings, benefit concerts and parties, they marched through east London, using a group of supporters to defend them from the police. After the First World War, they helped distribute milk, open a children’s clinic, nursery school, and canteens that served affordable food. Artist Joey Yu celebrates the women of east London with her artwork – a wall piece emblazoned in suffragette colours, and celebrating the movement’s fearless philosophy. In tribute to the work of east London’s suffragettes, Yu’s piece takes over one wall of Shoreditch’s Village Underground – a space for creativity and culture in the heart of the area.
Irene Ho by Stephanie K Kane, Liverpool Street Station
Stephanie Kane pays homage to Irene Ho (also known as Irene Cheng), who was the first female undergraduate to study English at the University of Hong Kong in 1921. As well as pursuing her education at King’s College and the University of London, Ho established the Chung Hwa School in Poplar – which has been recognised as the first Chinese supplementary school in London. It offered Anglo-Chinese children from the area the chance to learn more about the language, life, folklore and culture that was part of their heritage. Kane’s floor piece has detailed illustrations of hands and portraits of Irene. These symbols nod to a quote from Ho: “Gather all the learning you can from your teachers. Study to serve humanity, hand over your knowledge to others.” Kane’s piece dominates a busy walkway at Liverpool Street Station, and has been painted by the artist in pink and orange to symbolise survival and hope, as well as catch the eye of passersby. The station is a short journey from Limehouse, where Ho established the Chung Hwa School.
Joyce Guy by Jacob V Joyce, Redbridge Central Library and Museum
Jacob V Joyce uncovers the story of local hero Joyce Guy, who played a pivotal role in the Redbridge community. As the founder of the Melting Pot group in Ilford, she produced charitable and cultural events and provided support for older Caribbean residents who’d moved to England from the 1950s onwards. Jacob V Joyce’s piece is inspired by conversations with Redbridge residents and Guy’s own celebration of her history and culture. Stretching across an entire wall of the Redbridge Library, the portrait incorporates words from Guy herself, as well as details that reflect on her life’s work. In 2002, Redbridge Museum staged an exhibition about the history of homes in Redbridge. The Museum worked with Melting Pot to recreate a local Caribbean 1960s ‘houseshare’ kitchen and lounge. This is reflected not just in the content of Jacob V Joyce’s piece, which shows Guy in front of a West Indian living room, but also in its location on a wall of the library’s Hardback Cafe.
Adelaide Knight by Caroline Cardus, Community Links Canning Town
As secretary of the first London branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Adelaide Knight fought for women’s suffrage and was arrested and imprisoned in 1906. Cardus’s artwork revolves around a statement Knight made after her arrest, while under pressure to give up campaigning to avoid prison. “I refuse to barter my freedom to act according to my conscience while my health permits me to fight on,” she said. The artist sets this statement over the green, white and purple of the suffragette movement, honouring Knight’s own experience as well as that of disabled people everywhere. “Adelaide’s words felt current and vital to me personally,” says the artist. “And I also believe they have powerful resonance with events happening to people today.” Cardus’s artwork is located in Canning Town – which was home to the first branch of the WSPU in London, and currently the main hub of social action charity Community Links, which has been based in Newham for 40 years and operates across London.