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Tahera Aziz: [re]locate:

The tragic events surrounding the racially motivated murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was stabbed to death while waiting for a bus in 1993, are revisited in a new art installation at the University of Chichester’s Otter Gallery from 9 October to 6 December.

The exhibition presents a multi-channel sound installation developed by London-based visual artist and educator Tahera Aziz, taking the notion of the daily routine of waiting at the bus stop as its starting point.  The artwork explores the disruption of the everyday to foreground the murder, highlighting the detailed elements that have particular resonance. The work examines the processes involved with struggling to preserve the memory of the Stephen Lawrence case, which has had a deep impact in public life, still remaining relevant 22 years on, whilst offering new insights.

Never take the tedious task of waiting at a bus stop for granted.
Benjamin Zephaniah

Tahera has used transcripts from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report to build up a picture of what happened on the evening of his death. She has worked with a group of actors, to develop the dialogue, and a field-recording artist and sound engineer to experiment with simultaneous multi-channel recording and audio compositional techniques.

A computer programmer introduced elements of responsiveness into sonic environment. The result is an installation that encourages the audience to place themselves in the position of ‘witness’ and generate their own mental images of events by providing a mechanism for them to engage with the complex and multi-layered narratives associated with the murder.

This challenging, timely exhibition and accompanying learning project for local secondary school pupils intends to raise awareness and encourages local people to reflect upon the issues of racism and stereotyping, police corruption and institutionalised racism; teaching racial understanding of equality and diversity, philosophical, faith, political, humanitarian and citizenship study topics.

 

Tahera, an academic at London South Bank University, has had a longstanding creative and political interest in identity, migration and racism. Over the years she has produced photo-based and installation work that explores how wider socio-political issues or events can impact on the individual to shape their experiences, and their sense of self and belonging. [re]locate has been shown in venues across the UK and internationally and now visits the University of Chichester to coincide with October’s Black History Month, a celebration and exploration of black history, heritage, culture and achievements. 

Visual artist and educator, Tahera Aziz commented:

“I’d followed the case very keenly from the start. It was just so shocking that somebody could be walking home and get stabbed because of their colour.

The other thing that really got me was that there were three witnesses at that bus stop. They all got on the bus, they didn’t wait around after the attack, which is something I don’t judge them on.

I wanted to explore the idea of what if you were a bystander in that situation, how would you react. I’m a visual artist but chose to work with sound because it was dark that night and I want people to create their own mental images.

The piece is broader than racism, although that is the key concern. It’s about witnessing and social responsibility.”

(An interview Tahera gave to the Yorkshire Post in 2009)

Learning project

The accompanying learning project has been organised by the University’s Widening Participation team and the Otter Gallery, supported by the Education department. It addresses a younger generation who may not have heard of Stephen Lawrence, and with its intention to raise awareness is particularly targeted at local secondary schools and sixth form colleges as well as primary and secondary teachers. The experience of visiting this exhibition, with its engaging sound installation, informative displays alongside pre-visit INSET training sessions and follow-up discussions, will provide students from years 9-13 with an invaluable opportunity to participate in a range of citizenship and diversity activities throughout the sessions. 

For more information
  • newspaper clipping about the exhibition (Yorkshire Post) in PDF format, see attached.
  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/stephen_lawrence/timeline.htm (only up to 1999)
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-16283806 (includes sentencing of Gary Dobson and David Norris)
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26465916
  • Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (Macpherson Report)
  • https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/277111/4262.pdf
  • Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust
  • www.stephenlawrence.org.uk