David Lammy, Labor MP for Tottenham, launched the Khadija Saye IntoArts program, an educational initiative focused on developing the arts in disadvantaged communities and organizing public art exhibitions, the first of which is nine serigraphs of the work of Saye.
Lammy, who was a friend of Saye’s, said that he remembered “the tender, beautiful and creative soul” whose work “reflects this deep sensitivity that was part of his personality”. “This exhibit reminds us of the dignity and humanity with which we remember those who lost their lives,” he added.
Titled Breath is Invisible, the prints are on display in Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, about a mile from Grenfell Tower and a central location for the Notting Hill Carnival, which was canceled this year due to the Covid-19 hatching .
Born in London, Saye lived with her mother in Grenfell Tower. She was educated locally, but at 16, she won a scholarship from the Arnold Foundation for the rugby school in sixth grade after participating in programs set up by IntoUniversity, which runs the Khadija Saye IntoArts program.
The program aims to fill the lack of diversity in the UK arts sector by providing opportunities for young people from disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds, such as Saye who started attending IntoUniversity events at the age of seven years.
Saye, who was 24 when she died, was the youngest exhibitor of the diaspora pavilion at the 2017 Venice Biennale, where her works rubbed shoulders with those of Isaac Julien and Yinka Shonibare.
Her friend and fellow artist Sanaz Movahedi told the Guardian that Saye sometimes found the Venice experience “dazzling and overwhelming”, but she was delighted that one of her idols, artist Lorna Simpson, had seen her work.
Nicola Green – an artist who was a mentor to Saye, is married to Lammy and who founded the Khadija Saye IntoArts program – said that going to rugby had plunged Saye into “a completely different world”, which was difficult but had given him “tenacity and determination”.
“Khadija’s story is inspirational, it needs to be told so that other Khadijas around the world hear it – it is an important legacy of her incredible story,” she told The Guardian in 2017.
Saye participated in summer educational programs where she developed her artistic practice, and the program founded in her memory will develop new arts-focused activities at IntoUniversity centers across the United Kingdom.
Saye’s work is the first of three exhibitions that make up the Breath is Invisible project. Later this summer, Martyn Ware, Zachary Eastwood-Bloom and Joy Gregory will be presenting site-specific commands developed alongside the local community.
The second exhibition will take place from August 11 to September 4, and is a 3D installation by Ware, inspired by the song To Be Invisible by Curtis Mayfield and recent events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement. Ware worked with young musicians from Amplify Studios on Portobello Road to create a “soundscape” that captures the sound of London and presents the narration of Mayfield’s lyrics to the song, which appeared on his 1974 album Sweet Exorcist was picked up by Gladys Knight and the Pips.
This will coincide with the work of Eastwood-Bloom, which is described as a 3D digital rendering which is “a visual representation of the effects of racism”, which will be projected onto the windows of the building.
Joy Gregory’s Invisible Life Force of Plants will be on display from September 8 to October 9 and is informed by her research on the history of botany between the 17th and 19th centuries. Gregory worked with youngsters from the Harrow Club to collect and dry plants from West London to create prints that explore the idea of what is an “indigenous” species and how global trade routes have influenced British plants.
The nine screenprints that make up Breath is Invisible will be sold after the exhibition and the profits will go to the Khadija Saye IntoArts program and to the artist’s estate.