A masterpiece reconstructing from the archive a moment of trauma in the Black British lived experience.
In 1965 the parents of the artist, Sonia Hughes, decided to book a holiday on the Isle of Wight. Hughes’s mother was pregnant with her. The Race Relations Act, passed that same year, had not yet come into force, and the country at large was still hostile to people of colour. Hughes’s father was wary of the possibility of rejection. He decided to write to the hotel informing them the he was ‘coloured’, so that there wouldn’t be any nasty surprises when they turned up at reception. The hotel immediately wrote back cancelling the reservation.
More than fifty years later, that event has inspired a new installation in which, says Hughes, ‘An artist rocks up, builds a shelter and declares herself free.’ It’s a response to the hotel and the society which would have countenanced such discrimination, and an ‘attempt to unwrite that letter.’ The outdoor installation, to be built by Hughes with wood, screws and nails, will be located in several spots where people of colour may have previously felt unwelcome. ‘This time, I’m just rocking up,’ says the artist. ‘I’m bringing my own house and my own cups. You’re welcome to come help me build my shack and take tea with me, but I’m coming whether you like it or not.’