A series of portraits by artists including Amy Sherald and Sonia Boyce will mark the 75th anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving in Britain on 22 June 1948 in a display at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh (until mid October). The ten portraits, commissioned by the Royal Collection, will also be shown at the National Portrait Gallery, London before travelling to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace (10 November-14 April 2024).
The Royal Collection says in a statement: “Against a backdrop of political change while the country emerged from the ravages of the Second World War, these [Windrush generation] men and women took up jobs in construction, with the NHS, and on the railways, often facing discrimination as they navigated life in a new country and pursued their dream of a better life for their families.”
Sherald painted Edna Henry, a key member of the Pentecostal Church community in Cardiff, while Boyce portrays the actress Carmen Munroe who co-founded the Black theatre company Talawa.
Other participating artists include Brooklyn-born Honor Titus and London-based Sahara Longe (both are represented by Timothy Taylor gallery). Titus painted a portrait of Delisser Bernard, the founder of a Wolverhampton youth charity organisation, while Longe depicts Jessie Stephens, a London community leader and founding member of the Police Liaison Committee.
Other UK arts organisations and galleries are also commemorating the Windrush anniversary. At Queercircle in Greenwich, London, the filmmaker and artist Zinzi Minott presents the sixth iteration of her durational film series Fi-Dem (“for them” in Patois), made annually on the anniversary of the Empire Windrush docking (until 27 August).
The work was first created in response to the Windrush Scandal of 2018 when the UK government apologised for deportation threats made to Windrush migrants. “The Windrush scandal began to surface in 2017 after it emerged that hundreds of Commonwealth citizens, many of whom were from the ‘Windrush’ generation, had been wrongly detained, deported and denied legal rights,” the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants says.
Over at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a season of displays, talks, workshops and events mark the Windrush anniversary, “exploring the impact of the Caribbean presence on art, design and culture in Britain”, a statement syas. The display Between Two Worlds: Vanley Burke and Francis Williams compares a portrait of Burke, dubbed the “Godfather of Black British Photography”, with an 18th-century depiction of Jamaican writer Williams, sparking debate around issues such as colonialism and racism.
Meanwhile, the digital art platform Circa, in collaboration with Black Cultural Archives, will show a series of images submitted by “audiences connected to the Windrush Generation” at Piccadilly Circus in central London (8pm), presenting a montage of memories and snapshots.