Do you remember Olive Morris? uncovers the largely untold history of Brixton-based activist Olive Morris (1952-1979). Developed by London-based artist Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, this exhibition is the culmination of three years of artist and community-led research inspired by this remarkable figure in South London's recent history.
In her short life, Olive Morris co-founded the Brixton Black Women's Group and the Organisation of Women of Asian and African Descent (OWAAD) and was part of the British Black Panther Movement. She campaigned for access to education, decent living conditions for Black communities and fought against state and police repression. Despite her young age, she empowered the people who lived and worked around her.
The exhibition at Gasworks traces the different phases and multiple collaborations within this long-term project, which was triggered by Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre's encounter with a photograph of Olive Morris taken by British Black Panthers' photographer Neil Kenlock. The photo shows Olive Morris standing at a Black Panther Movement demonstration in Coldharbour Lane in 1969, and holding a placard reading: “BLACK SUFFERER FIGHT PIG POLICE BRUTALITY”. Research into this particular moment in history led to a meeting with community activist Liz Obi, a friend and colleague of Olive Morris, who has since become a key collaborator in this project. More recently, the growing interest in Olive Morris led to the formation of the women's group Remembering Olive Collective which are working to restore the memory of Olive Morris and the issues she fought for.
Do you remember Olive Morris? brings together art works, films and historical photographs documenting the movements and campaign groups with which Olive Morris was associated. It also features archival material from the newly-created Olive Morris Collection, held at Lambeth Archives. The exhibition serves as a contextual backdrop for a weekly programme of events including walks, discussions, presentations, workshops and music evenings. These events have been devised by the Remembering Olive Collective around the issues she championed during the 1970s and remain significant today: from squatting and immigration, to self-education. A publication documenting the project as a whole will be launched in January 2010.
For more information about the project, please visit: rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com
Ana Laura López de la Torre (b. 1969, Uruguay) has lived and worked in Brixton since 1995. Using the overlooked and the underrated as a starting point, her work creates visible and unexpected connections between things, people and places. Her practice is collaborative, often acting as a catalyser and involving disparate constituencies with common interests but diverse agendas, Ana Laura's practice is rooted in an engagement with local context, particularly focusing on the life of South London inner city communities. Ana Laura's commissions record includes projects for the ICA, the Whitechapel Gallery, La Casa Encendida (Madrid), Tate Modern and South London Gallery. More recently she has completed the 2008-9 Southwark Studio Residency, with the launch of the artist book Night Time. She is currently undertaking a PhD at Chelsea College of Art and Design and is working on the inaugural commission for Peckham Space in 2010.
The Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) is a group of women composed of over thirty members including artists, activists, academics, archivists, curators, cultural theorists and community workers of varied generations and cultural backgrounds. ROC has undertaken an extensive oral history and cataloguing project leading to the creation of the Olive Morris Collection, which is available to the public from Thursday 22 October 2009 at Lambeth Archives, 52 Knatchbull Road, London SE5 9QY. ROC meets once a month in Brixton, organises regular presentations and runs fundraising activities at cultural and political events, festivals and fairs. For more information, visit: rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com
TALK: The Empty Gallery Interviews
Monday 16 November, 7-8.30pm
A live conversation piece in which art writers Claire Nichols and Altair Roelants talk to artist Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre and other ROC members about the upcoming exhibition Do you remember Olive Morris?
OPENING:Do you remember Olive Morris?
Saturday 21 November, 2-7pm
With a performance by Alexander D. Great, a contemporary troubadour renowned for his unique blend of Calypso and Soca Blues commenting on the social and political issues of our times.
TALK: Artist Talk
Thursday 26 November, 7-9pm
Sonia Boyce talks about her project Devotional – a celebration of Black female singers in British entertainment – and her involvement in the Remembering Olive Collective.
CONFERENCE: Documenting Migration
Saturday 5 December, 2-5pm
An event looking at the ways in which records and documents of migration are kept and used by official bodies and by migrants themselves, and their importance in framing public opinion and policy.
OFFSITE TOUR: Remembering Olive Bicycle Tour
Saturday 12 December, 12pm
Meeting at 11:45am in front of Olive Morris House, 18 Brixton Hill, London SW2 1RL.
Visiting some of the places where Olive did things, and learning more about her, and Brixton's history. The bike tour ends at Gasworks in time for the 2pm event.
TALK: Housing Matters
At Gasworks, 2-5pm
As the culmination of the three-year project Do you remember Olive Morris?, Gasworks and the Remembering Olive Collective (ROC) are launching a publication of the same name.
This volume of original writings includes a cross-section of personal and archival writings about Olive Morris’ emergence as an activist in black British and women’s history, and her development as an intellectual engaged in domestic and transnational struggles. Authors include Liz Obi, Ana Laura Lopez de la Torre, Stella Dadzie, Paul Keleman, Ashley Whitfield, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Rakhee Kewada, Sheila Ruiz, Deborah Withers, Kimberly Springer and Khadijah Ibrahiim.
Do You Remember Olive Morris? will be available for £10 from the gallery.