Sunday, September 19, 2021

Two artist films reveal the dreams, concerns and activism of young Londoners

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A Glittering City presents two films by London based artist Ayo Akingbade (b.1994, UK); a new Whitechapel Gallery commission, Fire in My Belly (2021), and Dear Babylon (2019). In both, Akingbade forges conversations on urbanism, gentrification, power and resilience, her work sharing hopeful dreams for the future as much as they are pragmatic calls to action. 

Premiering at Whitechapel Gallery this summer, Fire in My Belly is an artist collaboration with the Gallery’s youth collective, Duchamp & Sons. Together through workshops, screenings and fieldwork in East London, the group explored ideas of place and belonging, tracing memories of displacement and the meaning of home over a period of six months to create the film. 

Fire in My Belly brings these young Londoners together to discuss what ‘community’ means to them. Echoing today’s uncertain times, they reveal their present challenges and future aspirations whilst highlighting the complexities of belonging. At Highgate Cemetery they pay homage to the activist Claudia Jones, reflecting on how overlooked migrant legacies can be preserved. The documentary weaves a compelling portrait of London through their voices as they navigate an uncharted road map of the city.

In the adjoining gallery space, a second film, Dear Babylon, opens with archival footage of street protests to frame a fictional, dystopian scenario: as a voiceover explains, new legislation will require all social housing residents to pay an £18,000 fee in order to keep their homes. The film essay follows three art students as they question what action they can take to combat this harmful law in their community; speaking to tenants, architects and public sector workers, they create a film of their own, in the hope of forming a sense of communal history and pool of shared knowledge. Dear Babylon comes after Akingbade’s Tower XYZ (2016) and Street 66 (2018), completing her social housing trilogy, No News Today.

Renee Odjidja, Curator: Youth Programmes, said:“An alumna of our projects herself, A Glittering City is Akingbade’s return to the Youth Programme which offers young people invaluable hands-on experience, skills and insight into the creative sector. This collaboration and new commission highlights the importance of access to creative opportunities at an early age in shaping the next generation of talent.”

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