Britain’s Windrush scandal has exposed the government’s hostile environment policy, begun allegedly in 2012. Arguably, for many West Indian pioneers to Britain in the 1950s and 60s, that hostility was there from the very beginning. Michael McMillan’s The West Indian Front Room, recreating the care and consideration West Indians put into making showrooms of their living rooms, first exhibited in 2005, now returns as The Front Room in London’s newly-refurbished Museum of the Home. Yet again, The Front Room shows the West Indian pioneers’ countervailing approach to racist calls for them to ‘go back home’ by recasting their homes in Britain as updated versions of the Victorian parlour. McMillan’s The Front Room is both a reflection on a certain kind of kitsch aesthetic and a profound political statement of belonging. Together with the film installation of Waiting for Myself to Appear, McMillan argues that the new permanent exhibition ‘marks another stage towards decolonising the museum that says loudly, Black communities in Britain are here to stay.’
Photo courtesy of Em Fitzgerald.