Image: Reinstalled mural trial / Taken by Janice Aitken
5 October: An exhibition titled a BREAdTH apart created by Scottish artist Sekai Machache, was destroyed by unknown individuals allegedly because of the exhibition’s message treating about racism in Dundee, Scotland, reported The Courier.
The exhibition depicts 16 portraits of Black people who are wearing colourful facemasks. The portraits presented as a part of the Scottish Black Lives Matter Mural Trail aims to highlight the issue of systemic racism in Scotland and how the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects the black community.
Sekai Machache explained to Freemuse the background of the exhibition saying that “there are some core elements of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is obviously what the mural trial is relating to. Also, it’s to do with the coronavirus pandemic and how vulnerable Black people are to, not just contracting, but also to whether they’re going to survive.”
Image: Mural of Rhea Lewis / Courtesy of Sekai Machache, masks designed in collaboration with artist Fiona Catherine Powell
The vandalism is assumed to be racially motivated as in an interview with Freemuse Sekai Machache said that she wasn’t surprised with the vandalism and that although in Dundee there has been a positive reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement, “there were some racist people who just didn’t feel comfortable.”
“I feel as if what happened was almost interestingly like a call and response. Call and response is a really important traditional practice within many African diasporic cultures, where one person calls something, and another person is responding. It’s usually, a central player, in a choir or in a storytelling environment, that will say something, and then the crowd will respond back,” the artist explained.
“It’s interesting how this has all transpired. We’re putting up our statement, then the racists do their little thing, and then someone else comes back and responds, it becomes this call and response. They in a way [the vandals] become part of the work. That’s what’s interesting,” Machache further adds.
Image: Mural of Graham Campbell / Courtesy of Sekai Machache, masks designed in collaboration with artist Fiona Catherine Powell
Dundee City Council members are condemning the act of vandalism. The artist said in a follow-up message to the interview that Dundee City Council has contacted the exhibition’s curators and showed their support for the art.
Disgusted at the racist vandals destroying these artworks. When an artist challenges racism and is attacked for it their point is made ten fold. The vulnerability of our BAME community to Covid demands support and solidarity. pic.twitter.com/XoKyGBtUiY— Michael Marra MSP (@michaeljmarra) October 5, 2020
The artist purposed the exhibition with the hope to open a conversation about a significant issue of the inequality and systematic racism within the healthcare system in Scotland.
“I wanted to highlight the way that the BLM movement, isn’t just related to police brutality, which obviously is a major component of the movement. The work is about addressing the fact that we’re living in a precarious position with our health especially in relation to the covid-19 pandemic. Also with access to mental health care, specifically in Scotland, there are not enough people of colour that we can go to for mental health therapy in this country,” Machache said.
Machache further adds that it is crucial for her to be vocal about her experiences and use the voice and platforms she has nowadays to give the voice to other people who are experiencing the same situations.
“I think that is a really big aspect of being an artist. I think it is our job to shed light on the issues of our day,” the artist said.
Sekai Machache is a visual artist and curator born in Zimbabwe and raised in Scotland where she is currently based. She is interested in discovering W.E.B Dubois’ notion of Double Consciousness explained as the psychological challenge of having African heritage whilst living in the West.