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Background story of The - I Represent Collection


Showing up lovingly in all aspects of my life

Akeisha Walters gallery exhibit

My current collection ‘I represent’ was originally based on women who hold residence in the communities of london and how some areas resonate more to some than others. As a woman living in the uk i thought it was imperative I share things that I experienced or stories once told to me growing up.

The strong seed of female independence was planted by My grandma who we called mama, she lived in Kingston Jamaica in a tenement yard in Allman Town, the living was tough as my grandad took off and left for the UK for employment and did not return.  My grandma made a decent living making handmade candy of all kinds from coconut drops to Tamrind balls all boiled, prepped and packaged from home, she’d wrap the basket on her head and set out in the hot sun to sell to her neighbours.

My mum never met her dad until her mid 30s and so she longed to know him, to question him, to understand. As time moved on my mum who was the youngest out of her three siblings flew the nest to work and travel, on her journey she met my dad who I think at the time was a bus driver in Kingston and worked his family farm, he’d sometimes visit my mum with eggs or invite her for breakfast, she’d go to realise his life was lot different to hers. As time moved on they travelled to the uk, bought a house and married in Brixton, my grandma had already migrated to Roled Island in America and would visit us when she could.

My mum reached another point in her life where the longing to know who her dad was would reappear and discovered he lived and worked in Liverpool, where he had created a new life for himself, a new family. My mum, sisters and I would pack a bag and visit sometimes not knowing it was a connection my mum so desired.

 

My grandmother sowed the seed of community, implementing the art of using what you have and making it work into my mum’s life and ours. She was insistent that no matter where you reside stay true to your heritage and be kind.

 

As a youngster I’d look up to both my parents especially my mum, she would take us everywhere as if we were stuck to her like a favourite accessory she didn’t want to lose. We’d take coaches to Manchester to visit friends she’d only just met the week before, other places we would visit and stay in cute b+bs, dress up in carefully selected gowns and elegant skirts with pearls and kitten heels, set off in the evenings to dance and eat four course meals. We were always stared at not just for our brown skin and dark brown hair but our style, our happiness for being in a new place.

My dad on the other hand would show us party life, times as a family we would take car journeys to parties but African style with loud gatherings, laughter, dialogue and spicy aromatic food. Or he’d host small shingdigs which always included dominoes and evening garden chatter with the hum of reggae in the background.

 

Music was also a big part of our lives my sisters and I were introduced to ballet up waterlane on Brixton hill, tap dancing in Norwood and street dance entering competitions where ever there was an opening. We’d go horse riding lessons off coldharbour lane every other Saturday and Sunday was the day we’d attend Sunday school in Stockwell where we’d sing and dance, learn the bible and be back home for hot cornmeal porridge with a fried dumpling on the side.

As a teen piano was introduced to us again this time my mum would take us once to lessons up north London and expected my sister and I to know our own way every week and we did. I then got into sports playing all girls football and netball for fun on ferndale road.

 

It was only when I reached my twenties that my mum and I moved on from our Brixton home and moved around, we lived in Streatham for 5 years and relocated to South Norwood for 3.   

Where you live does not always resonate with you and you won’t always be surrounded by the culture you connect with however I do believe everyone has a place that matters deeply to them, where they may feel a sense of belonging, an unwavering community spirit, a bond that is somewhat unshakable. A dot that connects the soul.

 

Brixton was and still is a place that I call home not only because i grew up there but because my mum took on the baton of implementing positive change through location and also honouring hardship as the catalyst for perseverance.