Khadija Saye: in this space we breathe, a portfolio of nine silkscreen prints by the late British-Gambian artist, is offered in support of the Estate of Khadija Saye and the Khadija Saye IntoArts Programme. The portfolio is on view as part of the group exhibition Rock My Soul, curated by Isaac Julien, at Wharf Road (2 October-2 November 2019).
Khadija Saye was a Gambian-British artist who tragically died in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, aged just 24. Despite her young age, she achieved recognition as a hugely talented artist and had already produced significant work, showing extraordinary promise for the future. Saye was honoured to be the youngest exhibitor in the Diaspora Pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where her works were shown alongside those of established artists such as Isaac Julien and Yinka Shonibare, who were among a number of mentors to the younger artists involved in the Diaspora Pavilion project.
For the Diaspora Pavilion, during 2016-2017 Saye developed a series of nine tintypes. Titled Dwelling: in this space we breathe these works explore the 'migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices'. This series was part of an interrogation of Saye's heritage and mixed faith background visible in her previous photographic work. Saye's parents were both from The Gambia; her mother, who died with her in the Grenfell Tower fire, was a Christian and her father, who survives her, is Muslim. Saye described her practice as a means to explore 'the deep-rooted urge to find solace in a higher power'.
Saye's medium for this work was wet plate collodion tintype, which is a precarious, fragile method of printing. She said: 'Taking inspiration from the development of portraiture in the fifteenth century, I wanted to investigate how a portrait could function as a way of announcing one's piety, virtue, soul, and prosperity'. By working for the first time with volatile tintypes, a medium so easily affected by elements outside of the control of the artist, the theme of surrendering control to a higher power was somehow exemplified within the materiality of the work. Saye was only able to exhibit six of these works in the Diaspora Pavilion and she agonised over which to choose. In 2017, in collaboration with the Studio of Nicola Green and Jealous she went on to create a silkscreen print of one of the exhibited works, titled Sothiou, using a high-resolution raw scan. Raw scans of the eight additional tintypes have been recovered and used to make 50 portfolio sets of nine silkscreen prints, each including the original signed, dated and numbered silkscreen print of Sothiou. One of the 50 portfolio sets of nine images was sold at Christie's, London, in 2018 to benefit the Khadija Saye IntoArts Programme.
About the Khadija Saye IntoArts Programme
In memory of Khadija Saye, and inspired by her life, the Khadija Saye IntoArts Programme at IntoUniversity was launched in October 2018. The programme, founded by social historian and visual artist Nicola Green, brings together and introduces new arts-focused activities at IntoUniversity centres across the country. IntoUniversity serves disadvantaged young people across 27 local community learning centres, working with children from age seven upwards, and opening young people's minds to the power of education by providing ongoing academic support, mentoring and aspiration-raising activities.
From the age of seven Saye's talent was nurtured by IntoUniversity, a national education charity. She attended IntoUniversity's Carnival Arts Programme, where her instinctive creativity was ignited, nurtured and developed over successive summers. For more than ten years Saye received support with her learning and encouragement for her ambitions.
Through IntoUniversity, she was awarded an Arnold Foundation Scholarship for sixth form at Rugby School where she discovered her talent for photography. IntoUniversity also supported Saye in her journey to the University for the Creative Arts where she studied photography. In disadvantaged communities across the UK there are many other young people who, like Khadija, could benefit from support in order to achieve their ambitions. The Khadija Saye lntoArts Programme will enable more young people to follow in her footsteps and show the originality of their voice and their talent.
Image: Khadija Saye, Sothiou, 2017
From the series in this space we breathe, a portfolio of nine silkscreen prints produced in an edition of 50
Hand printed on Somerset Satin White 300gsm paper
Each 502mm x 613mm
Courtesy of the Studio of Nicola Green and Jealous
© The Estate of Khadija Saye, London