Connections & Crossroads
This exhibition focuses on the theme of 'connections and crossroads' and contains written words, images, videos and sounds to convey what this means to each of the featured artists.
It seems appropriate to launch the website with this exhibition theme as we mark the end of a journey which has connected us all with each other, and now with a larger audience.
Moreover, we reach a crossroads in that our individual paths, ideas and influence converge and can take a number of directions going forward, as is always the case after making a connection.
The track was recorded on the eve of Black History Month and is an improvisational jazz session that took place between three musicians in the basement of a bakery in Peckham, South East London.
Audio extracted from an Martin Luther King speech can be heard over this, a soundbite from a time when he too like so many black Americans were at a crossroads.
Arnold played saxophone in this recording of the session and it was later mixed by engineer, DJ and Drummer on the track Amadeusz.
by Hadiru Mahdi
Hadiru said "this is a photo of a dear friend of mine. It was taken in 2006 in St Bees, the night before we along with 8 others embarked on a two-week coast to coast walk across Northern England - over the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Walking together was a root in our friendships. A space to learn about each other and ourselves, to adventure, have wonder fill us, stay young and curious."
Maps used to say there be dragons here speaking a broken Latin trackies by their ankles with eleven fingers, one sharper than the others taken from the kitchen sink and slipped by their side. Picking concrete from streets broken and throwin’ ‘em at police horses.
Blood used to run from the town hall to Homerton Hospital, white sheets speaking for silence underneath pavements gritted and cleaned with the salt of eyes closed in prayer so that children marked with nike-y ticks on the back of their heads could play cops and robbers on these roads to the soundtrack of chicken shop loitering and cognac screams from the boisterous OGs who’d make sure to breathe their last breaths on the corner of Dalston Ln and Mare St by any means.
The maps don’t show the dragons no more. In their place instead be the sour-grass fed glitter-bindi-wearing white chicks in pink wigs eating cold flesh unseasoned expensively. Living in a vintage of circa 2013: a co-op down every alleyway, a lime-wedge in your Carlsberg and now it’s gourmet. The sons and daughters of King Midas, every man, woman, child in their own likeness surprised to find their own homes turned to melted gold because little did they know that for the dragons it was but a loan.
Now the dragons are back and they’re pissing on floors, tree trunks and in herbal teas asking for no favours, see they won’t be leaving without their 40 acres and a mule without a feature in the paper did you think that they was playing. Won’t be leaving without their names tattooed in Cantonese onto the lower back of this culture, saying thank you kindly for keeping it warm, but we’ll be taking it back now,
by James Powell
Part of The End Days series.
James said "as dark as the series and subject matter is, I wanted to illustrate something that shows a symbol of hope in barren lands. The carved hands represent unity and the angelic figure above represents a safe haven for refugees seeking a chance to start a new and better life. Ultimately, refugees have faced difficulty just to stay alive, which is a basic human right the likes of the Daily Mail seem to be ignorant to."
by Isaac Eloi
They say the truth shall set all men free,
But what truth is this, with what conditions is it laid at my feet?
For I battle with the world to bathe in the flames of eternal fire,
This subaltern speaks truth to power, only to be branded a delinquent and a liar,
See, I followed the model set before me and only pain did I find,
I forced this body into that box and found no peace of mind,
This body is corrupted; return it to sender for it is a queer,
No compassion does the young one find, but rather hatred and fear,
I pray to God and seek forgiveness from the witness of my eyes,
Accept absolution, moving through life believing the lie,
I hide from the light to embrace the darkness for it is only then that I can be free,
But when evil comes upon me, not a soul is present to hear me weep.
They say I’m sick and that my soul is in need of a cure,
But the doctor says I’m in good health and my heart is pure.
Yea, protector of the culture, I see you’re not my brother’s keeper,
For we are “sinners needing the Lord’s forgiveness”, as spoken to me by a godly preacher,
We are bound to suffer, beating hearts that bleed as one,
We struggle on earth yet our eternal penance has barely begun,
Imprisoned by the melanin, perpetuation implored from above,
Desired by the devilish, with fetish disguised as love,
It is a lonely existence for a human being to live,
But in a world which hates this black skin, what more can I truly give?
They say I should seek the counsel of our great ancestors past,
But beware of eyes, ears and talismans for their words do not last.
I must be my authentic self for there are plenty out there who need it,
Objectively this word’ll be spoken yet subjectively you shall perceive it.
Yet queer, trans and woman shall fight for the ones who are centred,
We spill our blood yet and receive no thanks when we die defenceless,
See, the revolution will be televised,
And it will be glorious when we mobilise,
For this body belongs to a family with its best interests at heart,
A link to remain forevermore, not even death can do us part,
And while mine eyes have been opened fully through this life of sin,
The most important truth is that I have learned to love what lies … within.
Waking up. Those first few minutes when you forget all of life’s worries and pleasures.
Those moments where nobody has passed, you’re not broke, lonely, late for work or failing at school.
Those beautiful, few seconds, which tick by with your mind in a pleasant bliss, unaware of the impending train about to drag it 18 ways from Sunday. If heaven can be found on Earth, here, is where it will be.
She’s still in my bed.
I should hold her.
Raise her head and gently slide my left arm under the pillowed side of her neck. Coiling it around the front as if to say I’d never let her go.
She’d snuggle her into my arm and grab with both hands as if to say she’d never let me let her go.
My right hand, now resting on her belly as if they were holding her together the vital stopgap preventing her contents suddenly spilling out onto the bed.
Although I never complained when her liquids spilled before.
And we’d stay there, silently smiling. Thinking of one another, with one another.
Thinking about how perfect this scene was. How’d I would write poetry about it someday soon.
I can still smell her on my sheets. Still feel her forehead on my lips.
Listen to her hear my heartbeat quicken as her cheek nestled in my chest.
This is what they spoke of. This is where I had finally reached.
I love her.
For a moment i wonder if i dreamt last night. You know when you wake up from a nightmare where ‘x’ dies or that thing happens. Then you wake up and laugh because the mere thought of it seems so ridiculous now. Yet just a few moments ago it seemed so painfully real. For a moment, I was there too laughing at absurdity. At impossibilities. Here, in this heaven, the dead do not die.
Then the train arrives. It doesn’t slow down as it approaches, the passengers waiting at the station are pulled to it’s cold metallic sides like magnets. Head first. Today I am one of them. Clinging for life whilst being torn from the station of serenity. I cannot stop this journey.
The train takes me back to Moorgate station, when she said those words “I think we should break up”, it takes me back to the eternity that passed where I simply stared at her. Blindsided. Hoping she was telling the most poorly timed joke. Whilst knowing damn well she was too funny for poor humour like this.
The train takes me even further back. Finsbury Square, 5 mins prior. Where I asked her “So where do we go from here?” A loaded question. I knew where I wanted to go but I needed to hear her say she wished to come.
That the thought of my unhappiness was unbearable and she would do the small things necessary to fix that. That she still loved me too. That this discussion was silly and we still had to move to Canada, and play golf, and go rock climbing again, and break-in those pink furry handcuffs you love the feel of, and do double dates and out cute the other couples and go to the beach, and have freaky sex on the beach, and go back to France and show Eric the concierge how much French we’ve learnt since our last visit. How we still had to argue about whether we were getting a dog first or a cat, and whether you were stealthily moving into my place 1 hair product at a time, and how I laughed from my belly when you denied, but your ‘just a couple tings’ has somehow colonised 2 drawers and half a shelf and you’ve been awarded permanent residence in my bathroom cabinet, and your wheat-free products will always have a spot on my kitchen shelf and within my fridge, and within me, you... will always have a place to call home.
How we still had to grow old and beautiful together.
My question “So where do we go from here?” instead sat there. Like a piece of shit.
“Er, I guess I’ll think about it and you will to(?)”. I’m not sure if this was a question or statement. She had this weird way with words where the two would often mesh seamlessly. I’ll think about it and you will to. This hit me like a punch in the stomach.
What was there to think about? All I asked is for you to put the effort into this that I was.
“…. sure” I reply.
Her favourite word. “Sure”. A word of compliance. Of nonchalance. A word which perfectly communicated the most neutral “I don’t really give two shits either way what you do, but do you boo” you can muster. I chose her favourite word to end our conversation here so that we could now ‘think’.
The walk to the station was long. Me constantly 3 steps ahead, intermittently looking back to make sure she was still there. I’m not sure why but I felt she may suddenly evaporate. We crossed the two roads in between the square and the station, conflicted as to whether I should reach out to hold her hand as I did – she made me pinky promise weeks ago I’d always do so. No matter what.
Guess we’ve both broken commitments.
My phones been dead for 5 hours now but I plug my headphones in anyway. 10 steps away from the station I hear a faintly muffled “KC…”. I wonder whether I should ignore it. Pretend I actually have music playing. I could mouth the lyrics to a nameless song. Give her more time to think before speaking. As if a few more seconds would change everything.
“Yeah Bubbs?” I reply, unplugging my headphones and turning to face her, my face lit up as she said exactly what I needed to hear.
“I’m sorry your birthday was so shit, I’m sorry I don’t make more of an effort in this, I’m sorry I don’t make you feel how you make me feel”.
I heard her say all of this, within my head.
Instead what she said was “I… think we should break up(?)”.
Another question-come- statement.
Another fist in my stomach.
I stare. Dumbfounded… still.
Now thinking back, maybe it was my psyche preparing me, maybe a part of me already knew what was coming. Don’t respond it screamed. I responded. I stared
The train takes me inside Moorgate station, where we parted. Her for the Hammersmith, Circle and Metropolitan lines, me for the Northern. Us, from each other. We stare at one and other.
People pass. Eons pass. And we stare.
My body begging me to walk towards her. Pull her close and wrap my arms around as if to say I’d never let her go. By now my arms were twitching to embrace her. Ears burning to hear her run over and whisper “I’m sorry, I changed my mind, I’m being silly and rash.” She was always slightly more impulsive than me.
But I didn’t move. Couldn’t move. Simply stared, seeped in pain. Numb.
I wish I knew what was going through her head at the time. Did she feel the same? Were her eyes pleading with mine so I could tell her she was being silly and rash? That I would never let her go without more of a fight?
Her eyes were bloodshot, welling with tears. I don’t know how I noticed, as mine were too.
Tick… Tock… Tick… Tock. We stare for an eternity in this decaying space until she finally begins to walk… towards me… my heart quickens at the thought of the scene finally playing how I envisioned.
“I’m sorry” I pre-emptively play her voice in my head again.
“I’m sorry”, my knees now buckling under the weight of these two simple words.
“I’m sorry!”, my soul screaming for her to utter.
She continues to walk towards me but these words do not follow her.
She stops in front of me, alone, I haven’t moved. Still frozen but thawing in anticipation of words that will never arrive. She doesn’t look me in the eye, but she hugs me. Tightly. Like she was either holding me together or needed something solid to stop her crumbling. Maybe both.
Her head buried in my chest again, kissing the heart she dropped goodbye.
I am barely able to lift my left arm around her, but it still formed a natural coil around the back of her neck, holding her close. As if to say it hadn’t yet got the message. As if to say it would put up the fight where the rest of my body now failed to summon strength.
As if to say it would never let her go.
Who’d have thought that she would be the one to let me go.
It’s funny how I called you Bubbles yet you popped mine. Pushed me to embrace love and then left.
The first person I ever gave my heart too, you dropped it with a shrug and a tear. I wake up clearly and remember it all.
The train finally stops and I remember every single detail of last night. Heart no longer quickening in the morning. Now it simply beats on, slowly, stilly. Arms no longer coiling. They got the message. They fall, lifeless.
I sit up and reach for my laptop, face telling the story before my fingertips could. I open a new document and type the words
by Hadiru Mahdi
Hadiru said "traveling through Guinea en route to Mali this is one of many ways we crossed rivers - what man propose God dispose - a saying common across my continent. By this point we'd been on the road for over 3 months on travels from the M25 junctions heading south, through Europe into North Africa and round the shoulder and elbow of West Africa. Many roads, rivers, mountains, valleys and borders crossed. All the people and the lives we saw and were invited to spend time in."
by Isaac Eloi
Lonblaj-mwen – mother, brother, sister,
I chase you but you run –wilder, slicker, faster
Your words dance off my tongue and I seem lovestruck,
No assistance I receive, for I’ll just get you with some luck.
I hear you in the darkness, somewhere deep beyond the void,
I clock a digraph and diphthong, but I hear very little noise.
Why are you so secret, why do you hide from me?
As children we would play, mixing up mattat and munoc, you see.
The elders pretend they don’t know why we’re not friends,
But we spoke the queen’s English, we nuh want you in these ends,
For gwanpapa-mwen, your obstruction meant survival,
For us, we dunno, you’re like old school vinyl.
You’re eternally stuck between a rock and a hard place,
You pop in at family reunions where no one recognises your face.
Half of me is lost but half of me is found,
I try to swim your waters but I’m truly scared I’ll drown.
They say I’m not a real Dominican because I’m detached from you,
But I say I can speak it, and then they ask for proof.
Initiative employed, I took first steps,
Working through those pages until there’s nothing left.
As for your survival you failed the one before you,
But for our survival to thy culture, I must be true.
So you see this kweyol-la, kweyol-mwen,
What was that auntie “ki sa ou té ka di mwen?”
by IGGY LDN
IGGY LDN’s most recent work, titled Fatherhood, is a short film designed to decode the intimacy between men of colour; in particular, the relationship between father and son, which is hardly portrayed in mainstream media. The story depicts the emotional turmoil that can arise from unresolved issues within relationships; how they play upon a young man’s psyche leading up to manhood and how they change his viewpoint on himself as well as his father.
The full film can be watched on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5-zbva7vgY&t=27s
My Mother said take care of your health and remember to pray son
I said I’m trying my best see I just learnt
that they sell Christ’s blood in Waitrose
so I’m swimming in it buying it by the crate-load.
My Mother said when she was seventeen and fresh from a land whose flag was painted green white green her daddy kissed her good-bye and so she cold and soon without home ended up in a telephone box flicking through yellow pages looking for a name that tasted like jollof rice and bongo drums –
at seventeen I sold my name in pursuit of ivory
and licked flesh boasting of my recklessness
with my sadness inscribed on a necklace.
My father was beaten for writing with the wrong hand so that today I could scribble in my right and take food from elders with my left hand. Real men and women marched and rioted for this space where I stand. In 1981 in a house in New Cross, South-East London thirteen died
so I could rhyme about big booty bitches skanking to now!
that’s what I call music 96 looking for new ways to skip tradition
hoping that those who came before me aren’t listening.
by Hadiru Mahdi
Hadiru said "I mostly rode the National Express back and forth from London to York during my Uni days. I spent many hours on such views. The journey was a time or transformation into and out of different parts of myself, the many worlds I inhabited. I did a lot of reading and writing from the window seat.
Sometimes you could smell the rain long before it hit. See the vapour in the distance and watch until it speckled then pattered the window. These rivulets were among my favourite forms, when raindrops grouped and together ran a stream.
At the time I felt this photo best summarised my 'eye' and way of seeing. Looking out the window into an infinite distance, focused on a curious movement in the in-between space."
Map a route with no compass,
Attracting attention from strangers
Out to prove to themselves
Why you’re a threat but not threatening
So you hear the sirens coming now?
Blue lights, blue bins and blue skies
On those lilac mornings
Shaded with latent potential
And those crimson evenings
Where hearts are unsheathed
Settling somewhere eventually hopefully.
Map a route with no compass,
And find Volkswagen men scowling
Dark faces beneath hoods hiding
Lone women wresting to get away
Police not letting boys be boys
So what is it that they fear?
Under lunar jurisdiction
I find my way home
Among concrete, tarmac and greens
All shaded yellows
Like a dark current over golden sand.
Map a route with no compass,
And let memories play in your mind
Like the sound of the music
You listened to every day
On red buses and Southern trains
Before you learnt how to travel Overground
Eluding Volkswagens and dark faces
Watching home turning auburn, teal, burgundy
And looks change character not frequency
After they found it
He said "hanging out with SXWKS members in Barcelona, we were riding scooters around the coastline. I noticed how these two were in the silhouette of a mountain in the distance and wanted to them to be an extension of it. In a sense, they both are mountains to me in the realms of brotherhood and culture. It definitely portrays a connection too."
Somewhere, still waiting to be found; an existential crisis at the bottom of a Costa cup.
Broke, bloody and bruised, clinging to a life they promised him he was worth.
These 20something years on the conveyer belt of academia, a currency equal in value to a well-timed retweet.
We, are the middle children of history. The Segway generation.
Trapped in the chasm of the old world and the new. Clawing our way to a scorched surface, swallowing tablets of iPads and Xanax.
Dulled, depressed and defeated.
Destitute and despondent.
A generation of half-men raised by broken women failed by rotten men.
I stand on the precipice of a crumbling tower and wonder whether the foundations for its survival were ever truly laid.
There’s no emoji to describe what I’m feeling right now.
I’m scrolling through advertisements who know me better than I know myself, casting light on private voids and telling me to plug it with [whatever bullshit I just purchased on Amazon].
Prime arrives before the self-doubt sets in.
Mail ordered salvation for £7.99 a month. Hallelujah money.
Is that not the ultimate saving?
My eye spots a good deal before my wallet spots a problem.
So please before this poem is over — whip out your phones and gofundmynutsack.com/I-deserve-it.
They call us entitled. Snowflakes. Weak.
Were they not the ones who raised us in their image?
Do they no longer like the mirror?
Is it ugly?
God. He who must not be named, a name I had tried to abandon yet here you are… Calling out for them in ecstasy whilst I worship inside your temple. Here you are… sceptre in hand on your knees praying to new idols. Forgive us.
We gave up awaiting the return of our forsaken fathers long ago.
Soul. Did I ever have one to begin with? Or did I simply lose pieces of it somewhere on the way to this stage?
If you see it on the floor please keep it safe. This young half-man is so terrified he’ll be crushed under the weight of ticking time and his own potential, bomb.
When he inevitably falls on this rat race he did not sign up for, he’ll need those horcruxes.
My DNA unravels every time I see another stream of red and black bodies on my screen. Or black bodies sold into slavery in 2017. I’m so sorry I wear my apathy like a straightjacket in the winter. I’m so sorry my concentration extends only as far as my arm can reach but I’ll wear my thoughts and prayers like a badge of honour for you, I think(?)
We are swimming in a sandbox of mundanity, and click bait, and clicktivism and “where the fuck is the clitoris”?
Our destiny is perpetually buffering.
Our Nirvana is in seeing the world, yet most of us will never get the chance to see out of the ends.
Our dreams will remain these far off foreign things unless you wake up and go to war with cozy coffins every single day.
I struggle with this. Every. Single. Day.
So this poem is for them. For us.
For the triers. The defeated. The beaten. The broken. The halves. The weak. The meek. For the down trodden and the forgotten.
This poem is for the abused. The victims. The survivors. The mute. The lonely and the unloved.
This poem is for the poets.
And for the lost.
For the women and the men.
For the children, always.
For anyone who goes to bed tonight hoping to wake up to a better tomorrow.
Hoping to somehow wake up brand new.
You are not alone.
We, are a generation of damaged goods.
And we want our money back.
and Tottenham is at it again.
getting dressed in the dark,
wearing only a trauma-stained tracksuit
with a drawstring wrapped soul-crushingly tight around the waste
of time we pretend to have.
we converse in acronyms bc eloquence is lfm,
and “gmt is the white man’s philosophy” anyway –
tbh, we work better in bmt
all of my niggas is casket pretty,
death crops up the same way as new betting shops –
stifling, inescapable, welcoming –
arms stretched out like the florist whose smile
is a little bit too wide,as if she doesn’t know
ain’t no-one safe in this happy city
I hope you make it —
is a gushing stab wound stitched together on an IKEA bed frame,
life itself falling victim to the cold concrete palms below,
catching the blood dancing through the gaps in crooked wooden slats.
crimson waltzes with the ground to the tune of
a stolen shopping trolley
full of melancholy –
we are nothing but 5p bag citizens,
disposable, toying with suicide
like we do with the wind
and the kids are at it again.
we roam through back streets and market crowds,
marking territory with rusted bikes
and not-quite-empty boxes of chips
littered outside the community dining room of Chick-King, an inconvenience
to the rough edges we circle,
never quite finding a corner to call our own –
left scattered like chewed up gum; spat out and crushed,
forgotten and left to blacken
decaying sweetly in fruit bowls
or prison cells
and the police are at it again.
crossing the road to pree,
and stop and search
for a fucking purpose.
do you taste the neglect on our skin
when your rounded jaws crunch on our wrists?
we make fists out of defiance or routine
and the lines have blurred between you and me.
you walk into bars and
we walk into bars
and get put behind them
and the mandem are at it again.
bare plotting, fare
hopping and scotching, hair
plaited up, conscious
to forget that we actually have one.
we smoked it all away,
we toke the day away
and we zone, 3
-ing our bros internally,
ashing out zoots on c
brick walls in solidarity,
sitting empty like the gums of the high street,
each derelict shop a reminder of this disease
sprawling across n15 + 17.
hope is the burnt maths book on the last day of exams,
willingly destroyed because
when will I use you again
in real life anyway?
by Louis VI
Louis said "This was a mad image for me. I saw this boy walking as we were driving outside Cape Town and I felt like his life was summed up in this image - music was his means of survival, his struggle but also his proud love. You can see he’s holding his guitar but also something more, walking alone next to a motorway as a flash Mercedes Benz drives past with the limitless African sky above him. This image captures the unfairness of the divides between rich and poor in the South Africa which is still based on race. However, even more, it showed what I love about South Africa - the raw energy, hopes and dreams of a young country that could be on its way to a brilliant, exciting future united by music, nature and its young creatives."
by Kareem Brown
Me and my faith were running away
My faith was running from me
My faith was running away with me
My faith was running me
My faith was a colour and now it’s running
I put faith in where I’m running to
point to who you think’s the treadmill in the relationship;
We point to each other
My faith lost itself in me
it died with my mother’s father
My mother has no faith in me,
My dad killed his faith
My dad’s son has no faith
My dad has no son.
My faith is like my shadow:
it won’t leave me; but it will change position
With faith you can become something you’ve never seen.
I know I’m becoming my dad.
My dad is running from his faith
I have been running from my faith
My faith barks at faiths bigger than itself
My faith was a church and experts flew into it
I cut my faith off to see if it’d grow back
My faith was growing its thousandth tongue
He said "I was in Tel Aviv with some friends I was working with. We decided to catch the sunset and I caught the two of them climbing over some rocks to get some photos. At that moment, I think we all just took it in. A silent agreement between us that everything was as it was meant to be: peaceful and connected."
He said "I was making these pieces of music at a time where I definitely hadn't found my calling, in terms of the genre of music I wanted to produce, whether I wanted to produce music at all and just generally in the grand scheme of life (I was around 13/14, though, so surely that's expected?). That being said, I feel like these unmastered songs from my iPad somehow seem to connect and fuse multiple genres, which is reflective of me attempting to connect the dots of my tumultuous life at the time. I promise I wasn't on drugs, just confused.