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The Colour of Love at New Art Exchange

28 February 19 words: Rachel Willcocks

Contributors from The Colour of Love project came together to share their photographs of life and love as Black African-Caribbean and White British people in mixed-race relationships through times of resentment and hardship. We went along to the launch event of the new exhibition to celebrate a significantly important and moving local heritage community project...

The Colour of Love project was set up to celebrate and document mixed-race relationships in Nottinghamshire from the forties to the seventies. It seems like a pretty normal thing now, but this exhibition gives a picture of what it was like to date someone of a different race back in the day.

One of the first things the project uncovered was that Nottingham has “a higher-than-average mixed-race community than the country as a whole, with 6% of people being ethnically mixed, 4% mixed White British and Black African-Caribbean.” With some of the highest statistics for mixed-raced relationships right here in Notts, it seems fitting that this project will help to document our local history.

Throughout the evening, the contributors of the project shared their stories of what it was like to move from sunny Jamaica to Notts. A culture shock, to say the least; the Windrush generation certainly had a lot of change to take on board. Most of the passengers were men who were invited to the UK to help rebuild the country after the war. One of the two moving poems performed on the night was a warm and picturesque poem from Mr Burnett Anderson, which took us right back to Jamaica, the small island he left behind many years ago.

The evening continued with heartfelt personal testimonies; Brenda, a contributor, shared hers and her husband’s story. She touched on some of the difficulties that she faced telling her family about her relationship. She said: “My dad told me my children would not know who they were… they know exactly who they are! They know they come from a diverse background and they have the opportunity to use everything they’ve gained from their background”.

Walking through the exhibition, it starts with the project founder Coleen’s family photographs, and continues with many more stories. Each small display groups together multiple photographs alongside text. It’s personal and tender. Every image was chosen by the group in their collaborative sessions together and each one certainly tells its own story of a special moment or loving memory of a mixed-race relationship.

The photos show authentic, precious memories that have aged and become worn, making them even more enticing. On one of the photographs, creases from folds show that someone has carried this around lovingly in a wallet.

The evening finished off with some time to mingle over refreshments and share stories. Speaking to the guests, they were really passionate about the project and were interested in what’s coming next. One attendee, Shannon, commented: “I like that collections of family photographs are being used to document local history.”

These photos show the love of the couples that has triumphed over the prejudice and ignorance that was stacked against them, and well worth taking a trip down memory lane for.

The Colour of Love project is set to develop with a DVD, publication and celebratory event. Keep an eye out on their Facebook page for more info.

The Colour of Love exhibition runs until Sunday 24 March at New Art Exchange

New Art Exchange website

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