One such project was by the British-Fillipino artist Pio Abad, who created two murals on Kilburn High Road in 2020. Inspired by 16th-century vanitas still life paintings (which were intended to symbolise the fragility of human life through the depiction of objects) Abad sought out ‘real objects from real people’s homes, which tell the story of migration’, Rashid explained. The work ‘reflects the community’, Rashid said, ‘and the people who have held it so tightly to their hearts.’
The Reset: Habda Rashid
Watch the video interview or read on for the highlights:
‘There are a lot of things that feed into how you program,’ said Habda Rashid, Senior Curator at Create London – all the more so when you work in community settings, seeking to ‘find ways for art and creative practice to benefit the lives of people in towns and cities’, as Create’s mission statement reads.
"How do we rebalance the art world so that it’s not only showing the work, but it’s also helping to produce the work, so that we have a diverse generation of artists coming through properly?"
Create are also commissioning a series of artist-led projects as part of Becontree Forever, a program celebrating the estate’s ground-breaking and radical beginnings, as well as reimagining its future. In Parsloes Park, leading Irish artist Eva Rothschild will unveil Becontree Pyramids in August 2021. Meanwhile, British-Nigerian designer Yinka Ilori MBE is creating colourful play equipment with an emphasis on accessibility and collaborative play. STUDIO MORISON are producing Becontree-specific street furniture made from upcycled rubble from the estate.
Both projects, in Brent and Becontree, seek to respond to and enrich the local community. Has Rashid noticed a shift in the way people have been thinking about their immediate surroundings during the past twelve months? ‘I think the whole questioning of the local over the past year has been interesting. Because I don't think it's fixed in just where you are today. Like, I'm from Sheffield. My parents are from Pakistan, and I live in North London -- and all of those things affect what I see is my local, you know, it's not just the geography of where I am in this moment.’
"it comes down to really knowing the community you're working with"
Seeing The Soul of the Nation at Tate in 2017 sparked a series of questions for Rashid and her work as a curator. She was struck by the time-capsule nature of the exhibition and wondered, ‘How do we rebalance the art world so that it’s not only showing the work [often later in life or posthumously], but it’s also helping to produce the work, so that we have a diverse generation of artists coming through properly?’
It’s a question that Create answers with action. ‘I think it also comes down to really knowing the community you're working with, really doing that research, and then knowing the artists and knowing how they will respond,’ Rashid said. ‘My role is just making sure that that kind of magic potion works, and then watching it as it progresses.’
"the objects around us carry narratives just as rich as any inside a gilt frame"
As much as it might seem like a magic potion, going forward, we might all keep in mind the question of how we can respond to and enrich civic life, in all its day-to-day-ness and plurality. As Pio Abad’s murals attest, the objects around us carry narratives just as rich as any inside a gilt frame.
By Sammi Gale