Visual Narratives of Relocation is a participatory arts-based research project documenting local business owners that have been displaced when Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre was torn down, celebrating their contribution to the ecology of a community through large-scale portraits and interviews exhibited in non-traditional arts spaces. Local business owners often make up the hidden and under celebrated fabric of an area, hence the focus on them as individuals and their rich contribution to the area where they work. This project documents their stories through photography, drawing, and digital collage.
Visual Narratives of Relocation is part of a wider 21 Artists initiative called Include Us In, projects that use participatory, creative methodologies to document the lived experience of those whose voices are often left out of conventional decision-making or top down research.
In collaboration with Latin Elephant, Visual Narratives of Relocation explores narratives of relocation and displacement for migrant and ethnic economies in London in a context that was exacerbated by Covid-19. Despite being integral to London’s economy, their experiences are often overlooked. This study attempts to uncover such invisibilities through visual narratives of relocation and displacement. Invisibility intensified during the pandemic as migrant and ethnic traders struggled to get their voices heard in the face of adversity. In collaboration with Latin Elephant, a charity working with migrant and ethnic groups, and drawing on interviews and visual storytelling techniques, this six-month pilot study explores narratives of relocation and displacement. We will focus on BAME traders in Elephant and Castle (Southwark) after their removal and demolition of the shopping centre where some traded for over 30 years. As a major yet neglected sector, the project will highlight stories of relocation against the backdrop of Covid-19 which disproportionately affected ethnic minority groups.
The project was led by 21 Artists Founder, Dr Meg Peterson, generating artwork that represents symbols of relocation for each trader. Images from each shop are distilled into colour palettes that demonstrate the often superficial treatment from the council and the developer in dealing with circumstances that are complex and unique to each individual. The next phase of the project is to go back to the traders to hear their feedback, ensuring that the images feel representational of them and their experience.
This project was in collaboration with Southwark Playhouse in South London, documenting the local traders with shops inside Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre before it was torn down as part of large-scale regeneration in the area.