Start the Press!

The centrepiece of Start the Press! was an antique, flatbed printing press from Wolverhampton that took up its position in the gallery as a form of occupation in the tradition of the student art-school sit-ins of the 1960s, and in response to the current challenging economic landscape.

In effect, the gallery became a printmaking studio with eight regional printers taking up residence for three days where we produced original prints.

Start the Press! also included a printmaking display, featuring artworks by Lubaina Himid, David Hockney, Yinka Shonibare and Catherine Yass loaned from the Jerwood Collection. In addition, Ikon showed a series of prints by artist Pamela Scott Wilkie who first exhibited at Ikon in 1966.

The Seaweed Women of Zanzibar is inspired by Yinka Shonibare’s print Mayflower, All Flowers, 2020. Here I admired the blend of printing and African material patterns, a signature of Shonibare’s, and an emblem of African identity and independence. Shonibare’s work emphasises the need for an egalitarian structure in American society.

On the coastline of Zanzibar lies a story of resilience, a testament to the quest for equality by women of the coastal communities. Women are the main seaweed farmers within the community, accounting for 88% of farm owners. These micro-businesses enable them to elevate their economic status and role in society. The social impact has been far-reaching for these women, who can subsequently buy daily essentials for their families, send their children to school and improve their housing conditions. The businesses have given them greater power within their families and recognition as important breadwinners in the wider society.

The image is a photograph that I took while visiting Zanzibar. In this work, I highlight and honour the resilience of the women. I have used the Chine Colle method, photocopying African material onto Japanese Hosho paper, placing the material onto the plate prior to printing, and bringing the print to life.

This exhibition was supported by Freelands Foundation, Jerwood Foundation, The Saintbury Trust, University of Birmingham and University of Wolverhampton.