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Freedom of Expression

Oxo Tower Wharf,
Bargehouse Street
South Bank

April 10th to April 14th, 2019
Open daily from 11 am – 6 pm

A powerful new exhibition that uncovers the mystery, pain, anger and stories of forgotten police cells in the historic city of Port Elizabeth, is being premiered at London’s prestigious Gallery@OXO this spring.

Running for a week between April 10th and 14th, Freedom of Expression is a collection of work from celebrated South African photographer, Karl Schoemaker. Schoemaker has captured the long-abandoned Baakens Police Station which is nestled behind the sleepy-harbour city’s City Hall, to share its history and stories with the world.

Schoemaker captured the images alone across three-months, mindful to never spend more than three hours in the cells, afraid of becoming desensitised to the enormity of the history recorded on the walls: “The place was dark and dank, and to shoot the cells properly, I always closed the heavy cell doors which gave me the feeling of being trapped. An insight into what the captured felt. At other times I would go down and simply read the stories scratched into the walls, not photographing anything. But sitting with their energy, imagining the emotions they felt.”

Built in 1899, the Baakens Police Station was declared a national monument in 1984 then closed and sealed off. Forgotten. Until Schoemaker heard about the building and its significance in South Africa’s history. Of the numerous political activists[1] held in the cells, murderers, thieves, ladies of the night, drunks and those with a violent disposition. All separated by gender and race.

The Linbury Trust is supporting the exhibition and it’s produced by the Moving Assembly Project, a not for profit which connects people, artists and students from diverse global backgrounds through the arts. Talking about the exhibition Schoemaker’s co-curator and artistic director of Moving Assembly, Dane Hurst, says: “The historical context of these images and the trauma they hold is only a small element of what South Africa endured. They sit beside images that capture the lives of South Africa’s youth and the freedom they have to express their experience of the world. Seeing the positive outcomes of this work says so much about the nature of hope, perseverance and the power of the artist.”

The exhibition will also showcase photography from Moving Assembly Project students who have taken part in workshops in South Africa under the tutelage of Schoemaker. Talking about the student’s work, Schoemaker comments saying: “The guys and girls have produced remarkable images using real film cameras, images that tell the story of the youth living in gang-ridden Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. And then the contrast of the students work from the Ithuba Community College on South Africa’s Wild Coast. They had the same brief, but the experiences are so different.”

The exhibition is supplemented with a workshop (April 13th, 3pm – 5pm) on the role of the artist in the community, a session where attendees gain an insight into creative practice and how their work informs, influences and promotes arts, culture and heritage. Book your space online.

The exhibition is open daily from 11 am – 6 pm and is free to attend.

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