Khadija Saye: Cowries Incense and Amulets

Arts & Culture

Khadija Saye: Cowries Incense and Amulets

7:30 pm - 8:30 pm | 17 May 2021
Online | Free

Khadija Saye: in this space we breathe is a series of nine powerfully evocative silk-screen prints by Gambian-British artist Khadija Saye (1992–2017) currently on display in the Upper Ground Gallery at the British Library.

The series demonstrates Khadija’s deep concern with ‘how trauma is embodied in the Black experience’ and her exploration of her Gambian heritage and mixed-faith background. She photographed herself with cultural, religious and spiritual objects of significance both to her Christian mother and Muslim father, and in African traditions of spirituality.

Khadija and her mother, Mary Ajaoi Augustus Mendy, were tragically killed in the Grenfell fire in 2017. Sadly, many of Saye’s emotive, multi-layered and profound artworks, as well as objects used in them, were also lost. In the same year, her works were displayed in the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

Khadija Saye: Cowries Incense and Amulets

Self portrait of Khadija Saye, via @metroimaging Instagram

Join us for an exploration of the significance of these objects. Kadija George Sesay chairs this fascinating conversation looking at the traditional use of the objects across West Africa and other parts of the world, their continued importance for the West African diaspora, and how Khadija Saye employed them to convey the importance of her personal connection to Gambian rituals – from purification to protection, and her desire for moments of spiritual grounding.

Khadija Saye: Cowries Incense and Amulets

Khadija Saye (1992-2017) In this space we breathe. Photo credit: Christie’s

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Nicola Green is an artist and social historian. She has gained unprecedented access to iconic figures from the worlds of religion, politics, and culture, making portraits of Pope Francis, President Obama and the Dalai Lama. Her work explores identity, race, faith, gender, hierarchy and power and their intersections. Nicola is co-founder of the Diaspora Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2017, and is the founder of Khadija Saye Arts at IntoUniversity.

Njok Malik Jeng is the founding director of Yaram Arts, an NPO music organisation funded by Arts Council England. For over two decades, he has presented various renowned African artists, ranging from Youssou Ndour, Habib Koite to Sona Jobarteh and Dobet Gnahore. Malik is also a partner member at the Mboka Festival held annually in The Gambia, converging African Diasporans to celebrate their heritage. He is widely consulted on arts and cultural projects with particular focus on Gambia-SeneGambia.

Kadija George Sesay FRSA is the external curator on the Khadija Saye exhibition. She is a literary activist, writer, editor and co-founder of Mboka Festival for Arts, Culture and Sport and a PhD candidate at Brighton University researching Black British Publishers and Pan-Africanism. She has received several awards for her work in the creative arts.

Header Image: Artwork by Khadija Saye, courtesy of Artlyst