Arts & Culture

Windrush Years and the Next Generations at the Pitt Rivers Musueum

By Memela Cavanagh at

A year of events across oxford celebrating and acknowledging the invaluable contribution from Windrush Generation to our society was launched at the Pitt Rivers Museum recently.

Before the guests tucked into the illustrious buffet, which included salt fish vol-au-vents, the night’s events began; I took my place next to the cowrie shells and hair combs of the ‘Human Form in Art’ collection – ‘evidence of complex and extensive belief systems.’

Geno Humphrey, the deputy of African Caribbean Kultural Heritage Initiative (ACKHI), organiser of the event and of the 2018-19 Oxfordshire Afrikan (Black) History Season/Beyond Black History Month, and MC for the night, espied that men were underrepresented among the night’s gathering. He also pointed out that Black History Month should be a regular fixture in schools history curriculum and would “Make this country happier.”

First thanks were given by the Pitt Rivers Museum to the people who arrived in the UK from the Caribbean on The Empire Windrush 70 years ago. The museum aims to be more inclusive working with partners including Pat Greene at BK LUWO women’s group, Junie James at ACKHI, schools, arts/community/heritage organisations and museums all working together to recognise the contribution made by the ‘Windrush Generation’ in Oxfordshire and the UK, giving them a voice and an audience- as thousands of people visit the museum throughout the year.

Mayor and chair of Oxford City Council Colin Cook decried the government’s denying of citizenship to people who came from the Caribbean with British passports as disgraceful, emphasising that Oxford locals who are affected by this will get the advice and support they need. He said “We are better because of our similarities, not our differences.”

Performances from Euton Daley and Amantha Edmead of Kuumba Nia Arts and Unlock the Chains Collective gave a mixture of song, performance poetry and story drawn from their three current projects; #Ending the Silence, Mary Prince, and A Nice Cup of Tea.
Students from Oxford Spires Academy performed a powerful poem devised during a short residency with Euton and Amantha in response to the #Ending the Silence production.
A medley of songs followed from the Clockhouse and Ark T community singing groups with the audience encouraged to join in, which they did with great gusto!

Junie James thanked everyone for coming and showing their support, she said “Now we need to ground our young people.”

Amid the Alaskan reindeer coats and seal skins like parachutes, the babies’ beaded shoes and fabric beaten from Ugandan bark, my friend notices an Ashanti exhibit, kente cloth, its origin Ghana, also dated 1948. Touching how those Windrush pioneers, their roots in Ghana, were not treated as precious artefacts. It is up to us to treasure them.

Since 2017 the Museum of Oxford have been curating a ‘Recreation of a West Indian Living Room.’ If you have a story the museum would like to hear it.

For more information visit: https://www.oxford.gov.uk/museumofoxford