“I think I might need to start redefining myself” says Carrie Reichardt standing next to her latest Suffragette Spirit mosaic on Adelphi in Aberdeen. She is an artist who for years has used her art to talk about injustice in the world. Though now if anything she has been looking at the past in order to cast a light on the future. “I’m moving from crafivist to craftarchivist”.
We know Carrie’s work well. Her house in the leafy suburb of Chiswick is covered from head to toe in intricate mosaic packed with symbolism. It’s garnered her attention from around the world. Her activist art has featured in museums and galleries across the country.
Now in Aberdeen for the Nuart Festival. Her work is looking back and focusing on the everyday heroes of the past and present. One mosaic in particular called ‘Suffragette Spirit’ focusses on the women of today. Women who are channelling the spirit of the suffragettes of way back when.
That piece, commissioned by Amnesty Scotland is part of their wider campaign to draw attention to these everyday people who fight injustice where they find it. Located in a little alley off the busy Union Street in Aberdeen. It depicts a woman marching with a flag, an image identifiable from historic suffragette campaigns. Using the famous colours of purple, green and white it then intersperses historic images with pictures of the heroes of today.
We meet at the mural, it’s colours popping against the granite streets. With her is Amal Azzudin, one of the original ‘Glasgow Girls‘ and one of the people featured on the piece. She campaigns for the rights of refugees and the injustices they can come across when trying to claim asylum. Inspired by the experience of her friend, a Kosovan refugee who at the age of 15 was taken from school and locked up in Yarlswood on the back of a departmental mix up. Sadly it’s an experience which all too many vulnerable people fleeing persecution have when claiming asylum in our own country.
It’s this type of story that Carrie has tried to capture in the ‘Suffragette Spirit’ piece. One which is about telling the story of the everyday people putting their head above the parapet. Those human rights defenders who act to defend and protect the human rights of others at whatever level.
Mosaic in Aberdeen
This though is not the only mosaic which Carrie has been working on. She’s been busy whilst in Aberdeen. With the help of her long time collaborator Karen Francesca, she’s created a number of works around the city.
Those go further to celebrate the achievements of the past and to remember the people of the city who went before. Focusing on the achievements of Aberdonian women. The centrepiece of one features Caroline Phillips, one time leader of the Aberdeen suffragettes. Another remembers the witch hunts of years gone by. “We are the grand-daughters of all the witches you were never able to burn” it proudly states at the top.
The everyday heroes theme goes further. Carrie has been also working with local people to choose their own people to celebrate. Part of the community workshops built into the Nuart programme. Those people including musicians and teachers also now have a permanent tribute in the city.
“The thing about tile is that you have to physically destroy it. You have to smash it to remove it. It’s there and it’s going to hopefully last forever” says Carrie. “I think people have an innate response to it because it’s the earth. If you look at all civilisations they’ve all been working with tiles and ceramic.”
That’s certainly true with these pieces. Permanent and telling a story of the past whilst remembering the future. They are reminders of Aberdeen’s history and are meant to start conversations not only now, but a long way into the future.
Carrie Reichardt was interviewed on 13 April 2018 and was taking part in the Nuart Aberdeen festival. Her suffragette spirit mural can be found on Adelphi in Aberdeen and is a part of the wider campaign by Amnesty. For more articles about the work of Carrie Reichardt have a look here.