Golden haloes pick out icons of the Windrush exhibition

Truly iconic: civil rights campaigners Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King portrayed at the Windrush Legacy Association’s exhibition at Croydon’s Whitgift Centre

KEN TOWL pays a return visit to the Windrush Legacy Association in the Whitgift Centre to view the works of south Londoner Zoe Sinclair

Despite her interest in where people really come from, Baroness Hussey of North Bradley, better known as Lady Susan Hussey, was nowhere to be seen at The Windrush Legacy Association’s latest in a series of rolling exhibitions.

Had she attended, she could have avoided making her “old-fashioned” sentiments overt by the simple expedient of reading the helpful biographical details under each of the striking portraits of iconic people of colour that make up the art work.

Iconic is the appropriate word.

A triptych of icons: Floella Benjamin, Muhammad Ali with Sammy Davis Jr and Doreen Lawrence

The portraits share characteristics of the original icons, the religious paintings of the Orthodox churches. They feature images of revered figures and they are given haloes of gold leaf.

The use of black and white photos against the gold leaf and colourful African fabric enhances the sense of iconography. Thus, the African heritage of the subjects is alluded to in a playful manner that contrasts with how we have come to see such figures as Baroness Lawrence, Baroness Amos, Dame Floella Benjamin and Sir Trevor McDonald.

Not all of the subjects are British. Nestling between Dame Floella and Baroness Lawrence we find the equally iconic if less ennobled Americans, Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis Jr, while there are also images of Bob Marley and the Wailers as well as a neatly executed pairing of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

The artist, Zoe Sinclair, is a south Londoner of mixed Polish and Jamaican heritage, a concept that most Londoners would have no problem with, though it might be beyond the wit of a certain Lady Susan.

Jammin’: Zoe Sindlair’s gold leaf take on Bob Marley and the Wailers

The overall effect of the works is one of cheery optimism, enhanced by the bright pop-art colours and the carefully curated photos. The facial expressions are positive. In some cases, notably Diane Abbott’s, positively youthful.

This is a show of triumph over adversity and against the odds, whether in the case of the Mangrove Nine, Baroness Doreen Lawrence or Rosa Parks.

Youthful: the Diane Abbott portrayal

In that, it complements the permanent exhibition that it shares a space with, a recreation of the interior of a Windrush generation house, with its radiogram, drinks cabinet and ornaments, itself a paean to the struggle and resilience of a people who came to this country filled with hope for the future.

If you are thinking of doing any of your Christmas shopping at the Whitgift Centre, or even if you are not, I would recommend a visit to The Windrush Legacy Association’s space on the first floor of the mall. It is free to enter and the people there are most welcoming.

Indeed if, you are short of ideas for Christmas presents, you could do worse than pick up one of Sinclair’s snapshots of good cheer. Prices range from £10 for an A4 print up to £300 for a limited-edition collage on canvas.

The venue is open five days a week, Tuesday to Saturday.

If you would like a look at more of Sinclair’s work, her website is here.

Read more: Whitgift Centre pop-up museum provides a tribute and legacy

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Golden haloes pick out icons of the Windrush exhibition

  1. Well I wasn’t surprised that Baroness Hussey of North Bradley didn’t turn up to this informative exhibition. But I was staggered that Ngozi Fulani couldn’t make it either. I can only assume that a Croydon venue couldn’t give Ms Fulani’s campaign to big up Meghan’s Netflix bombshell enough amplification. Respect to IC for giving this exhibition a shout – I’ve visited several times and will return. after reading this piece

  2. Pingback: Windrush Exhibition news – The Windrush GLA

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