Fleur Rising celebrates the city’s diversity while acknowledging the darker moments in Leeds’ past.
Set against a blue-gray sky and surrounded by typical red brick buildings, it is one of the most striking public works of art in recent years.
In a quiet little park on the south bank of Leeds city centre, a colorful exotic flower, decorated with batik (an Indonesian fabric popular in West Africa), blooms from the ground.
Hibiscus Rising, a 10m (33ft) sculpture by artist Yinka Shonibare that took around seven years from conception to completion, was unveiled on Friday as part of the city’s 2023 Year of Culture in Leeds.
“I think people like it,” Shonibare said after seeing the local reaction. “I see people walking by, stopping to look and smiling.”
While the artwork celebrates the incredibly diverse city that is the birthplace of Europe’s oldest Caribbean carnival and is now home to people from 169 different countries, it also reflects on the darker moments in Leeds’ past.
The sculpture was created in memory of David Oluwale, a British-Nigerian man who was chased and beaten by racist police before escaping from two officers in 1969. Drowned in the River Aire during pursuit. In a landmark case, they were jailed for a series of attacks.
“When I was asked to make a sculpture to commemorate the life of David Oluwale, I felt it should be a joyful event that would help people heal and move on,” he said.
Shonibare, who also grew up in Nigeria, draws inspiration from her own childhood. “When I was young, I saw hibiscus flowers all over Nigeria and sucked the nectar from them. It reminded me of happy times. I don’t want David’s legacy to be associated with sadness or something that would really divide the community.” He said.
“So I felt the symbolism of the hibiscus, representing beauty, love, empathy, passion, was appropriate for his memorial.”
During a vibrant and fun-filled 12 months on the Leeds arts and culture scene, residents enjoyed a host of performances, exhibitions and celebrations as part of Leeds Year of Culture. In 2017, the European Commission informed Leeds that it was no longer being considered as a European Capital of Culture due to Brexit, but this attempt failed and Leeds’ official bid for 2023 failed.
Dr Emily Zobel Marshall said that although Leeds had become culturally and financially richer, and now had some of the best paid jobs outside London, funding “is a real struggle” as support for public sculpture projects has been jeopardized several times when they were withdrawn. Co-chairman of the David Oluwale Memorial Society.
Despite this, Hibiscus Rising can continue with funding from the council and Leeds 2023, with additional support from the Arts Fund, Arts Council England and a grant from the Henry Moore Foundation.
“I think it will be our Angel of the North, it will be an iconic sculpture,” Zobel Marshall said.
One of the reasons for choosing Shonibare is that he is known for his art that explores colonialism, creating a series of vibrant artworks that feature batik fabrics draped over traditional European colonial statues.
Zobel Marshall said that when Leeds City Council inspected its own statues, it found that no tribute had been paid to people such as slave owner Edward Colston, whose statue was torn down by the people of Bristol. “But there are statues that commemorate the glory of the empire and the exploits of the ‘great’ white men.”
Jonathan Pryor, deputy chairman of the council and executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “The unveiling of this magnificent new public artwork is a truly proud moment for Leeds and a great tribute to the city and its powerful statement of meaning. . Performance.”
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Post time: Dec-25-2023