If you were to be allowed to freely explore the immense collections of the British Library, how many British authors would you find had in fact come from other countries – Joseph Conrad, for example, the author of ‘Heart of Darkness’ was Polish; Hanif Kureishi author of ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ is of Pakistani and English descent, Kazuo Ishiguro, author of ‘Remains of the Day’ was born in Japan…. and so it goes on. The same applies in art – Ford Maddox Brown was born in France and Yinka Shonibare was born in Lagos, Nigeria. Yet these authors and artists are British, reflective of the rich cultural mixture we have in this country and the contribution that immigrants have made to the success of Britain.
The walls of one of the galleries at Tate Modern are lined with bookcases full of books with Yinka Shonibare’s ‘The British Library’ reflecting on immigration in modern Britain.
The names on the spines of the books bound in Yinka’s trademark colourful Dutch wax material are those of immigrants who have made a notable contribution to British life, while others are blank awaiting stories yet to be told into the future once Britain can look to a future after the ongoing political madness of Brexit comes to an end.
An important part of the Library are the tablets in the centre of the room, linking to a website on which visitors can add their own stories, so that the Library can continue into the future both physically and digitally.