Shiraz Bayjoo’s commission for Art Night explores notions of migration and displacement through a short 16mm film, drawing upon his wider practice and research into European colonial legacies in the Indian Ocean region. Working with a group of 8-year-old students from Mission Grove primary school, Bayjoo asked them to explore their rights as young people whilst considering their own experiences and stories of courage and overcoming.
The resulting conversation presents a visual metaphor for the multiplicity of pressures facing humanity today. Occupying a unique non-politicised position, the children are able to critique the myriad of experiences and treatment facing trans-migratory groups today, from their own experiences of isolation, loss and displacement. Through readings of abolitionist poetry, and 17-century fiction on Empire and class, the students have voiced the importance of agency in the world they are to inherit.
Bayjoo places this against his own image of flight and resistance from Mauritius, once known as the Maroon republic. The story of the Maroon slave becomes a wider metaphor for journeys of escape, overcoming and ultimately the transformation of self. The commission includes sculptural costumes inspired and worn by the children, and a performance devised in collaboration with Mauritian actor and choreographer David Furlong.
Commissioned by Art Night London + Iniva (Institute of International Visual Arts), the work with young people has been facilitated through Iniva Creative Learning, which encourages emotional literacy.