Beyond the Canvas
Dwelling: In This Space We Breathe, Khadija Saye (1992-2017)
Updated: Feb 14, 2022
‘The series was created from a personal need for spiritual grounding after experiencing trauma. The search for what gives meaning to our lives and what we hold onto in times of despair and life changing challenges.’ - Khadija Saye
To most of you, Grenfell Tower won't ring any bells. To Londoners, its mention immediately evokes a raging blaze, a preventable tragedy, and the tragic loss of 72 innocent lives, the victims of social inequality and injustice. Khadija Saye, 24 years old, was one of them.
The Gambian-British artist, who was also known as Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye, had achieved early recognition for her tintypes, images processed on thin sheets of metal coated with wet collodion, a technique that was popular in the late 19th century. Khadija was invited to exhibit her series Dwelling: In This Space We Breathe in the Diaspora Pavilion of the 2017 Venice Biennale, where she was the youngest artist.
I am mesmerised by these hauntingly beautiful vintage looking images in which Saye interrogated her heritage and explored the roots of her dual faith (her mother, who also perished in the fire, was a Christian, and her father is Muslim). She spoke of her practice as a way to address ‘the deep-rooted urge to find solace in a higher power’.
Launched in honour of Khadija, Breath is Invisible is a public art project that aims to tackle the lack of diversity in the UK art sector. Until August 7th, they are celebrating Khadija's work with a display of her photographs at 236 Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, mere blocks from where she lived and so prematurely lost her life.
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Nak Bejjen, 2018
All photos copyright © 2018 by Estate of Khadija Saye.