Gold & Ashes: A photo series by Feruza Afewerki
Outdoor Exhibition From the 12th June – 31st August 2021
Freston Road and Bramley Studio, London W10 6SZ
(Near Latimer Road Tube Station)
Photography Curator: Marie Kathrin-Blanck
Exhibition Curator: Bolanie Tajudeen
Exhibition Designer: Saraphina Mattis
REVIEW BY LUCY LAVER
FOUR years have passed since the morning of 14th June 2017, when the world bore witness to the most devastating fire in Britain since WW2 at Grenfell Tower, and one of the greatest injustices in living memory.
A residential tower block that had been covered in cheap ACM flammable cladding, to make it more visually appealing for the area’s wealthiest residents, caught fire in Kensington and Chelsea, one of the richest boroughs in England.
72 lives were unforgivably lost, hundreds of families were displaced and thousands of community members left traumatised.
Gold & Ashes is a photographic tribute by photographer and storyteller, Feruza Aferwerki, that sensitively depicts the survivors, bereaved and community members as they move forward with life after Grenfell.
The series of photographs have added poignancy as Feruza is also a bereaved relative that lost loved ones in the tower.
Among the 72 innocent victims were Amal Ahmedin and her daughter, Amaya Tucca, Feruza’s beloved big sister and niece, as well as her brother-in-law and cousin.
Heartbreakingly, Amaya was found in her mother’s arms, although Feruza has said it provided her with some small comfort to know they were together in their final moments.
These personal and often painful insights are the backdrop for Feruza’s work, which aims to humanise the victims of the tragedy and refocus the lens on the resilience, hope and determined fight for justice within the community.
Shot in both black and white and colour, the large emotive portraits were taken over a two-year period, during meetings with the relatives of those that died in places that they found familiar and comfortable.
The aim was to create a space where they could talk about life before and after the fire and the result is an empathic and soulful collection of images of the people at the heart of the matter.
Among those portrayed is Zeyad Cred who organises the Silent Walks which pre-pandemic took place on the 14th of each month.
Whilst the primary aim was to mourn, remember and reflect, the walks also seek to challenge the narrative that working class communities are disorganised and likely to riot, as well as send a clear message to those responsible that the community will not rest until justice had been achieved.
Zeyad is seen embracing his son. There were 18 children that needlessly died in the fire and the love and thankfulness for life is discernible in his gaze.
Natasha Elcock, who escaped from the 11th floor of the tower with her children, after flooding her flat with water and eventually being rescued by firemen, looks back at the viewer with a determined resilience.
Now the chair of Grenfell United, Natasha has committed much of her time to campaigning for the removal of dangerous cladding from homes, schools and hospitals, and the fight to make homes fit for habitation and safer for all.
To achieve the intimate photos of Edward Daffarn, he and Feruza went bird-watching as it was something he had enjoyed to do with his time before the fire.
As a survivor of the blaze and co-author of the prophetic Grenfell Action Group (GAG) blog that warned of a ‘catastrophic event’, he has a wise and gentle smile. Before the fire, Ed was a social worker, active member of the North Kensington community and an experienced campaigner, having fought tirelessly to save Wornington College – a valued community asset – from developers.
With clear foresight, GAG blog posts from the years and months preceding the tragedy repeatedly highlight residents’ concerns about the fire risk the building posed, and serve as a written record of the institutional indifference towards those that raised them.
As the inquiry continues to kick Grenfell into the long grass, it is more important than ever that the travesty is kept in the public eye and that the truths of those affected are told.
The series will culminate in a photobook which will be released in July and is currently available to pre-order. All proceeds from the book will go directly towards supporting the efforts of charities providing trauma therapy to the north Kensington