PLUGin² Black History Month @ John Lewis Oxford Street
Updated: May 24, 2022
John Lewis & Waitrose Partners have come together to create a business exhibition at Oxford Street that highlights and marks points in black history that were pivotal. The exhibition consists of a handful of black partners who have curated an extraordinary display of rooms that explore timelines, the false negative narrative around black people, behaviour that has been engrained to form stereotypes based on lies, traumatic events, things to be celebrated & a UNITE room to represent partners who have their own companies that support black people & black owned businesses.
The first room explores the devastating New Cross Fire which took place in south-east London, in the early hours of Sunday, 18 January 1981. The blaze killed 13 young black people aged between 14 and 22, and one survivor took his own life two years later. This section features ideas and works of Trephena Thomas & Zoella Freeman-White, creating a timeline of the events that led up to this & exploring the aftermath including the lack of action taken. The space displays a series of events as a timeline which you can see here: https://www.runnymedetrust.org/histories/index.html
The room consists of a time capsule, displaying a typical room from the 80's. The time capsule is brought alive by a poem, being played in this room. The pain, trauma & heavy emotion of the New Cross Fire tragedy is captured by a powerful spoken word piece written and performed by Yasmine Dankwah "Fire" produced by Kayodeine.
The next room, designed by Donna Ferrance is called 'Cradle to the Grave'. In this space, the display aims to give people insight into the journey of life from the point of view of someone who is black. It highlights the way media is biased, how negative dialogues are created around the black community, engraining false messages into people and young black children. Success isn't celebrated as boldly as for those who are white, their stories seems to be followed & advertised more. It is time for change and for people to wake up. The truth must be heard, there is a wall where Partners can input & share their stories and life experiences. To find out more: http://www.educationengland.org.uk/documents/des/circular7-65.html
Create Not Hate is a campaign that has been shaped and led by Partners across the John Lewis & Waitrose Partnership, including the Black Partner Advisory Group who have shared their stories and featured in the campaign - all brilliantly brought to life by Partners across different teams. This section also holds space for artwork to be showcased.
It was after the devastating murder of George Floyd, that businesses & the global population started realising that things are in need of dire change, reform & education. His passing marked a moment in time where things got real. This event stirred up a lot of trapped emotion & the world felt the unruly actions of the authorities that time & time again throughout history have been targeting black people unjustly. The horrific behaviour of authorities shed light on how big of a problem racism still is! People united to fight to get justice for George Floyd. There was nowhere to hide, action has to be taken. It is also about recognising ALL the innocent black lives that have been lost due to racism.
The final section of the exhibition is dedicated to existing John Lewis & Waitrose partners who have their own movement, like the Great British Exchange, that provides space for them to showcase their companies which are or help black owned businesses & other causes such as Sickle Cell Society.
The unite room is where PLUGin 333 CIC can be found.
PLUGin 333 CIC opens doors in unconventional spaces for artists who create to express & educate as opposed to chasing fame. We help artists market themselves better & create ways to ensure they are heard & seen. We believe that true authenticity is key for powerful art. Art is an incredibly effective way to communicate & spread knowledge, you may have heard the saying "A picture speaks a thousand words." PLUGin 333 CIC promotes Art as healing. With so much generational trauma that has been caused throughout black history, it is essential this trauma is released in a healthy outlet, creativity. Utilising that creativity to create change, impact other perspectives as a vice to spread truth & educate.
PLUGin 333 CIC has helped curate this exhibition, with special thanks to Kelsea Delatango:
Interdisciplinary Media Artist
Daniel Oduntan is an interdisciplinary media artist conceptional occupying the spaces between visual arts, sound and performance media. His polymath approach to creativity has led him in recent years to explore the politics of sound archives, the power of imagery and methods of accessibility for black creatives through participatory design. Producing cross-disciplined art, editorials and commissions for the likes of the V&A Museum, UCL, Warp Records, Publicis London and the Design Museum.
bare radicals are an experimental production concept. They are comprised of self defined radically thinking interdisciplinary artists, that seek to create through a lens of social justice. This piece, entitled - since '95 is a lookbook, by Ethical Stylist and Producer Kelsea Delatango, for Shay Casonova's 'Mnky D Luffy Air Max 95' in collaboration with Nike by 'You'. Not only does it serve as a fashion lookbook, the video featuring words from Romey Skye explores themes of gentrification and displacement of black Caribbean folk in Brixton, South West London.
Adiam Yemane Artist, Photographer @adiamyemane_ Ethiopian Eritrean visual artist and storyteller. Works as a freelance Portrait and research photographer focusing on social justice and community development. Longing for consistent change and movement inspires her to travel and document the world. World peace and sustainability are Adiam's main focus; through art, Adiam expresses heartfelt stories from around the world that facilitate the viewer with a greater understanding. Find out more on:
"abyssinian womxn" (2020)
Prolific Poet & Visual Artist
Joel works in various media to create vibrant works that tell viewers a story. His work is inspired by various cultures, the natural world, existential concepts as well as his own human experience. Joel is always looking for a new cultural lens to see the world through. He is also an experienced art tutor and has Run over 50 workshops for various charities and London councils. His workshops are designed to bring communities together, and make art more accessible. He was also recently featured on the BBC News special about artists during lockdown, the full interview can be found on the BBC website. The aim with everything he practice is to uplift people by building social bridges and reminding his audience that there is endless beauty within and around them.
Venetta Nicole is a UK based artist, graphic designer and illustrator. She has 2:1 honours degree in visual communication design and has created many bespoke pieces on commission to a wide range of clients including the NHS as well as exhibiting work across London. She is inspired by Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism, her work also includes African motif. Her work includes a lot of symbolism and she takes this inspiration from knowing that symbolism is a large part of communication and has been going back to times where symbolism was detrimental to survival. Venetta also takes inspiration from the idea that nature is also used to create patterns and shapes. This symbolism can be found in pictures and clothing and is still used today. Although she is inspired by these forms of art, Venetta has her own unique style and enjoys transforming a canvas into a contemporary statement. She uses brush strokes and layers to create a sense of movement and character which reflects the lens through which she chooses to express from. "Creativity is about allowing yourself to make mistakes and knowing how to transform them."
"My name is Yonkel I am a mother of three /wife and hairdresser by trade and have recently picked up my paint brush to express my self through art. My current project is painting melinated skin tones I like to incorporate history, hidden meanings and codes. My medium at the moment is acrylic."
Yasmine is a writer from South London, who is currently studying at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is passionate about subverting the rule ‘show don’t tell’ by exploring the narratives of individuals who are often overlooked and used for show, whilst combing storytelling, poetry and music to do so!
This exhibition was organised & curated by:
Lashel Thompson, Donna Ferrance, Trephena Thomas , Zoella Freeman-White, Sabrina Elliott, Joe Charlanawat, Felix Akuoko, Tanika St Mathe, Daniel Ofume, Meneka Leon, Musa Nabieu, And Shauntea White, Kelsea Delatango, Alka Suralia.
With additional support from: Elaine Hibbert, Jung-Mi Ham, Amanda Kerr, Sandy Omeally, Simone Tshuma, Amy Howlett, Paloma Montute & the Wider 001 Operations & Operations TM team, VM and CBRE team for supporting us all to deliver this in such a short turnaround.