Sutton House Hackney
2 and 4 Homerton High Street
3 August to 15 November 2019
Photographs capturing the lives, loves and losses of generations of Hackney women are the subject of a new exhibition at Sutton House this summer.
The personal portraits, many showing moments in Hackney’s history such as the Second World War and the arrival of the Windrush generation, were donated for the exhibition after London-based artist Cherelle Sappleton appealed to local community groups.
‘Family snaps can seem quite throwaway, especially today when so many pictures are taken on mobile phones,’ explained Cherelle. ‘It’s great to have them digitised but technology has really changed our relationship to the past. Through these women’s personal collections you get a real sense of each generation, each time in history. To me photos like this are like gold dust.’
Cherelle’s artwork is part of Sutton House’s ongoing programme of exhibitions and events created with and for local people and artists. The images on display have all been digitally scanned by the artist, with some blown up to create prints and others used to create new abstract art works for the display, which is set to music. Each tells a different story.
One set of images has been donated by a woman who was previously the governor of Hackney School and today is part of the Hackney Museum Black Women’s Writing Group.
Another woman from the Philippines, who just recently came to live in Hackney, donated images charting three or four generations on her mother’s side.
‘She’s still working out what it means to be British,’ explained Cherelle, whose childhood images are also featured in the exhibition. ‘One theme which came up fairly strongly from many of the images is the idea of families being fragmented because of the movement between countries. For example for the Windrush Generation, siblings, couples, children could be separated for long periods of time, in some cases only coming back together years later or never at all. At times, looking through the photos brought up some strong emotions for people.’
But Cherelle says even the serious themes in the exhibition are captured in a ‘playful way’.
‘What does family mean to you? What does it mean to be British? You can take the images at face value – as historic records, portraits and snapshots in time or as exploring some big questions – and others have been digitally reproduced to be more abstract – a glimpse of a face here, a scarf or a hand and a piece of art in itself.
‘I hope people will interpret them for themselves and perhaps take away a bit of curiosity to see what’s in their own attic, to connect with generations before them because it can spark some really lovely conversations. These are the kind of moments in people’s lives that in 30 years we will wish we would have captured, so I hope this archive will be there now for future generations to come.’
‘Semblance’ is a free exhibition and runs from now until 15 November 2019, at Sutton House and Breaker’s Yard, 2 & 4 Homerton High St, London E9 6JQ
Sutton House and Breaker’s Yard is open Wednesday to Sunday, from 12-5pm, all summer (members go free, entrance fee applies for non members. Free family activity packs are available from reception on entry).
There is a café selling light snacks and refreshments and a gift shop, both are open to the public and as part of a house and garden visit.
Visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sutton-house-and-breakers-yard to find out more.