Grenfell fire victim’s art on show at newly revamped Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge

PUBLISHED: 10:43 09 February 2018 | UPDATED: 15:11 09 February 2018

Andrew Nairne, director of Kettle's Yard, looks at the work of Khadija Saye. Picture: Keith Heppell

Andrew Nairne, director of Kettle's Yard, looks at the work of Khadija Saye. Picture: Keith Heppell

Iliffe Media Ltd

The iconic gallery is to open up to the public for the first time since its redevelopment

Gallery space at the revamped Kettle's Yard in Castle Street, Cambridge. Picture: Keith HeppellGallery space at the revamped Kettle's Yard in Castle Street, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Art produced by a victim of the Grenfell Tower fire in London is one of the most poignant inclusions in a new exhibition that marks the reopening of the iconic Kettle’s Yard following its two-year refurbishment.

Khadija Saye was one of the country’s most talented young artists before her death in last summer’s tower block inferno, which claimed the lives of 71.

The newly revamped Kettle’s Yard opens its doors to the public for the first time tomorrow (Saturday February 10) and art lovers are in for a real treat.

Kettle’s Yard director Andrew Nairne was instrumental in persuading Ms Saye’s estate to let the wet collodion tintype photographs, from a series entitled Dwelling: In this space we breathe, to be shown in the UK for the first time at the opening exhibition, called Actions.

Kettle's Yard and the house of Jim Ede. Picture: Keith HeppellKettle's Yard and the house of Jim Ede. Picture: Keith Heppell

He says: “I invited her to be in the exhibition. She was a very young artist and we have always been supporters of emerging talents who are not famous.

“I met her in Venice where she showed some of these works at the Diaspora Pavilion during the Venice Biennale. The minute I saw them I thought they would work in the exhibition and I wanted a younger artist.”

Labelled, poetic and powerful, the works explore traditional Gambian spiritual rituals as a means of healing.

Her chosen medium of wet collodion tintypes is an early form of photography which involves an elaborate process.

Kettle's Yard opens on February 10 after its redevelopment. Picture: Keith HeppellKettle's Yard opens on February 10 after its redevelopment. Picture: Keith Heppell

As a young black woman living in London, Ms Saye wrote of how her life, her Muslim and Christian heritage and her own faith were embedded within her art.

She wrote: “Using myself as the subject, I felt it necessary to physically explore how trauma is embodied in the black experience.”

Andrew adds: “We met again back in London in June for a few hours, not a very short time before she died.

“It was very traumatic for everybody, including me. She is now well-known because of this tragedy and as a young black artist working in London, she showed, from a very ordinary background, that it is possible for young people to be an artist, to make exiting work and be spotted by museum directors.

“She saw the list of artists included in this exhibition and she was incredibly pleased to be part of it, because these are some of the most famous in the world.”

The opening exhibition, Actions, will feature iconic works and new commissions by 38 international and British artists.

The gallery’s renowned programmes for young people will also be expanded.

The redevelopment has largely been made possible by National Lottery players, with £3.65million from Arts Council England and £2.32million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Robyn Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: “Thanks to money raised, the display and care of Kettle’s Yard’s nationally important collections has been revitalised.

“What’s really exciting about this project is the way they are engaging with so many people of all ages to truly bring to life the fascinating stories and heritage held here.”

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