As the rain washed clay dust from Hackney’s newest tenants -three large bronze and marble fruits honouring the Windrush generation- locals gathered round.
Sculptor Veronica Ryan was also there to witness the unveiling of the two-metre-high sculptures on the corner of Mare Street – a custard apple (annonaceae) shaped from ivory Carrara marble and a soursop (annonaceae) and a breadfruit (moraceae) both cast out of bronze with a green patina.
Ryan, born in Montserrat in 1956, addressed those present saying: “I want the sculptures to be family.
“I want the community to own them, and take care of them, and for children to wander around and sit on them.” And the community did just this. The school rush saw children climbing the fruits, feeling the different textures and admiring their size whilst opening conversations with parents about what fruit was what, where they had come from and what they were called in their country of origin.
For Ryan, this was part of her purpose behind the works. “It’s really wonderful to come to this point where I can make work that respects history, and fruit that grows on trees back home,” she explained.
Hamed Bamba, a Hackney resident since the nineties who moved from the Ivory Coast voiced how amazing Ryan’s art was to her, posing with all three fruits ‘I love it! They’re great, everyone will love them!’.
Ryan moved to Britain as a toddler and her youth was spent mostly in London where she studied fine art at the Slade School.
She says that she aims to highlight and celebrate the difficulties minorities have been through with her organic and raw art.
Her work has often explored the history of Montserrat, and what life would have been like before the arrival of British colonists.
Hackney is home to hundreds of the Windrush community with 8 per cent of its population being of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity.
Councillor Carole Williams, responsible for commissioning the installation for the Windrush Community told bystanders how the fruits are certainly “one way to celebrate the Windrush Generation and their descendants and the contributions they have made to the life of Hackney.” She said that she hoped the community will see the custard apple, breadfruit and soursop as a “permanent symbol of honour, respect and commitment.”
Another commissioned sculpture by Thomas J Price to honour Windrush will be unveiled next month on Hackney square, and both were chosen by a commission and are funded by the Art Fund, the Henry Moore Foundation and Ryan’s galleries the Alison Jacques and Paula Cooper galleries.