Interview The World Reimagined’s Ashley Shaw Scott Adjaye
This week’s Monday Muse, Ashley Shaw Scott Adjaye is the artistic director of the project. A native Californian with Bajan and Yoruba roots, she is known for promoting the representation of those not in the room and creating conversations that generate action towards equity. In addition to leading the research team within Adjaye Associates, an award-winning international architectural firm committed to community engagement through civic projects, Adjaye has held and currently holds a variety of non-executive roles including trusteeships focused on women and youth. These include sitting on the Africa Futures Institute Board of Trustees, the Prince’s Trust International Africa Advisory Board, and the Institute of Imagination Board of Trustees.
THE WICK: What you are most proud of about The World Reimagined?
Ashley Shaw Scott Adjaye: After three and a half years of developing our organisation, this was our debut. The World Reimagined offers a thoughtful and creative way to engage with the difficult reality of the UK’s role in the transatlantic trade in enslaved Africans and its enduring impact. I am hugely proud of the entire team who sparked awareness through multiple outlets: art, poetry, school curriculums, events, and our online heritage collection.
TW: How were artists and cities chosen for the project?
AA: We created nine themes, collectively called the Journey of Discovery, as a framework to guide our artists’ work. Then through an open call we invited UK-based artists to submit designs according to the themes. Our jury selected 29 artists from over 300 submissions. Next the artistic team researched hundreds of artists and ultimately commissioned 74 more. Similarly, we invited a large group of cities throughout the UK to become our host cities. Ultimately, seven signed up and hosted our globes, community outreach and school engagement: Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, Leeds, Liverpool City Region, London, and Swansea.
TW: Since The World Reimagined started four years ago, has there been a shift in recognition of Britain’s past?
AA: It would be hard to pinpoint a specific shift that resulted in more awareness of Britain’s past. What makes our era fascinating is the widespread shift towards Black consciousness and identities. Through the partnerships fostered during this project, I have encountered an extraordinary amount of people and organisations working towards racial justice. Despite so many challenges, I believe this is a hopeful time because more and more people of all backgrounds are educating themselves about how they can create a more inclusive and just society.
TW: What impact do you hope to see The World Reimagined and its Trafalgar Square exhibition have on culturally curious Londoners?
AA: One of the exciting aspects of this project was the opportunity to give artists a national platform for expression. As artistic director, one of my goals was to expand the cannon of images that we relate to this history. I wanted our artists to offer images of humanity because that was constantly undermined throughout this historic period. With the Trafalgar Square exhibition, in addition to the individual works, we have the extraordinary image of the collection of works in dialogue with national monuments and sacred public space. I also hope that culturally curious Londoners are inspired to sponsor or buy a globe through our auction at Bonhams.com this week.