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HMT Empire Windrush- Boat sculpture for Black History Month

Project Year

2023

Client

National Lottery

A white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks with abright blue sky in the background
A front view of a white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks

Introducing “Life We Hold: A Tribute to Black Britain,” a monumental wireframe sculpture dedicated to commemorating the historical significance of the HMT Empire Windrush and celebrating the remarkable contributions of Black individuals to the diverse tapestry of British society. This sculpture seeks to be a thought-provoking tribute, engaging viewers in a profound dialogue about unity, resilience, and the enduring legacy of the Windrush Generation.

This creation rises nearly 12ft high and took over 6 weeks to construct, entirely composed of steel wire and weighing 600kg. The installation prominently features groups such as FAM Fest, the Thelma Matilda Alves Foundation, MENFA, Windrush: The Story Continues, and Show Racism the Red Card. Each group’s featured portraits symbolize the exceptional achievements within their communities: from nurturing mental well-being among women from the Windrush generation to celebrating the rich cultural heritage in music and cuisine, mentoring and educating in schools, and fostering intergenerational connections

The boat sculpture made its grand debut at Tilbury Dock on Monday, October 30th, in a heartfelt tribute to the resilient Windrush Generation and a celebration of Black History Month. The unveiling was a poignant moment, encapsulating the remarkable journey and enduring legacy of those who arrived on the HMT Empire Windrush. 

The 26ft wireframe rendition of  HMT Empire Windrush was unveiled, marking the conclusion of Black History Month. The sculpture, revealed by Scarlette Douglas, now stands tall at Tilbury Docks, where the vessel first arrived 75 years ago in 1948.

Alongside the boat sculpture itself, the replica of the HMT Windrush will be adorned with mural portrait designs created by Black artist, Jade Pearl. These inspiring works, seamlessly integrated into the boat sculpture, as ‘life holders,’ honor influential and inspirational Black figures who have left an indelible mark on British society.

This event not only pays homage to the past but also looks to the future, serving as a beacon of unity, diversity, and the continued recognition of the outstanding contributions of Black individuals to the United Kingdom.

Close up of the detailing of a white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks

Symbolic of the Windrush Generation

Life Holders – Guardians of Legacy

Throughout the Wireframe Boat, the Lifeboat Holders of the HMT Empire Windrush are reimagined as Life Holders. These strategically positioned figures support a multitude of symbols and representations of achievement, creativity, and cultural significance. Each Life Holder stands as a tribute to the countless Black individuals whose contributions have enriched British society. These symbolic elements, held by the Life Holders, may include artistic representations, historical artifacts, and symbols of achievement, showcasing the depth and diversity of Black British contributions.

A white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. With an addition of 5 portraits hanging on the side of the ship. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks
Side angle of the top of A white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks
Looking at the top part and the detailing of a white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks

Transparency and Interconnectedness

The wireframe structure places a strong emphasis on transparency, allowing viewers to see beyond the surface. This symbolism encourages reflection on the multifaceted narratives of strength, resilience, and achievement that weave the intricate fabric of British history. The interconnectedness of the wireframe structure underscores the notion that our stories and histories are interwoven, representing unity, diversity, and the recognition of exceptional talents. The gaps within the wireframe not only provide spaces where the stories of the Windrush Generation and Black Britain’s contributions can be appreciated but also symbolise the interconnected nature of human experiences.

In “Life We Hold: A Tribute to Black Britain,” this wireframe sculpture encapsulates the enduring spirit of the Windrush Generation and the invaluable contributions of Black individuals to the rich mosaic of British society. It stands as a beacon of remembrance, unity, and the ongoing journey towards a more inclusive and diverse nation.

Close up detailing of the bottom of A white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks
Inner detailing of a white wired framed large replica sculpture of the HMT Empire Windrush ship at Tilbury Docks. Windrush sculpture by Lazerian at Tilbury Docks
Full view of Windrush wire frame sculpture. A replica of the famous windrush that landed at Tilbury Docks

The story behind HMT Empire Windrush

The HMT Empire Windrush, a passenger liner originally named MV Monte Rosa, has a significant place in the history of Black History Month, as it arrived in Britain on June 22, 1948, with over 800 passengers from the Caribbean. The ship’s name, ‘Windrush,’ has since become synonymous with the post-war West Indian migration to the United Kingdom.

The Empire Windrush’s voyage carried 1,027 passengers from Jamaica to London, including 802 from the Caribbean. This historic arrival symbolises the generation of Commonwealth citizens who came to live in Britain between 1948 and 1971. The ship’s name ‘Windrush’ was derived from the River Windrush in the Cotswolds, and the ‘Empire’ reflected its connection to the British Commonwealth.

The ship’s journey was a notable news event, even before its arrival. It docked at the Port of Tilbury on June 21, 1948, with extensive media coverage. The term ‘Windrush’ has since become synonymous with West Indian migration to the UK and the beginning of modern British multiracial society.

The ship’s original passenger list is held by the National Archives, although individual passenger cards were destroyed in 2010. While the purpose of the Windrush’s voyage was to transport service personnel, the unexpected arrival of civilian West Indian immigrants was not initially welcomed by the British government. Nevertheless, the majority of these passengers settled permanently in the UK, forming what is now known as the “Windrush Generation.”

Side view of wire frame sculpture in white. The sculpture made by Liam hopkins of Lazerian is a replica of HMT Empire Windrush and was comissioned for its 75th anniversary and Black History Month
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