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What We Have Become

Thursday 28 March – Saturday 1 June 2024

A group show by five visual artists, curated by Basil Olton
at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

A new exhibition at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives will showcase the work of five visual artists who are exploring the impact of local and colonial archives on personal and collective identity.

Curated by Basil Olton, the group exhibition What We Have Become will display new artwork including painting and drawing, photography, collage and sculpture, responding to Stuart Hall’s idea of cultural identity being formed from “points of deep significant difference”.

The artists’ work explores the impacts of silence and erasure in archival records created and kept by the British state about people of colour – for example, the destruction of Home Office immigration records which caused the Windrush Scandal – and how the violence implicit in the destruction of archival records may be reproduced as a rupture in the sense of self, identity and belonging.

“If you suffer together, it’s a shared trauma.” – Basil Olton

Casting the exhibition as a space of healing and reconciliation, the artists evoke new narratives emphasising the contributions, resilience and rich cultural heritage of communities of colour, with the histories of Black and Asian Britons retold on their own terms.

Participating artists include Rudy Loewe, Holly Graham, Diensen Pamben, Kelly Wu and Basil Olton.

Alongside the display, What We Have Become will include an events programme of artist’s talks, clay ceramics workshops for adults and children, archive research sessions and a schools offer. Nurull Islam of Mile End Community Project will produce a collaborative community response to the work.

Image by Basil Olton.