Here To Stay is an archive of portraits and oral histories by documentary photographer Inès Elsa Dalal which documents the personal and professional narratives of 23 Black healthcare personnel working in the National Health Service. It was commissioned in 2018 to celebrate 70 years since the arrival of the Windrush Generation, many of whom have been, and still are, integral to the success of the NHS.
Being of mixed heritage, Dalal is fascinated by the ways in which identity, heritage, personal history and collective memory overlap and intersect. For the past decade she has been utilising socially-engaged photographic practices and ethical collaborative co-working, to counter xenophobia and hostility towards migrants; with a particular focus on combatting anti-Blackness in the UK.
The Windrush Generation is named after the ship HMT Empire Windrush, which transported one of the first significant groups of migrants from the Caribbean to the UK in 1948, at a time when the British government was actively encouraging people from British colonies to migrate to Britain to alleviate labour shortages caused by the Second World War. Many people, particularly women, of the Windrush Generation, and subsequently their children, found training and employment within the newly formed NHS and played pivotal roles in its formation.
Their contributions have often been overlooked, however. The Windrush Scandal, which began in 2018, caused considerable trauma for many members of the Windrush Generation, who suddenly faced deportation after living in the UK for decades. The COVID-19 pandemic has also disproportionately affected Black and Minority Ethnic healthcare professionals, more of whom are working in frontline roles in comparison with their white colleagues.
The portraits on display here are accompanied by transcripts of conversations between the artist and the sitters, in which they discuss their experiences in the NHS and connections with the Windrush Generation. The transcripts are also available to view on the Wolverhampton Art Gallery website. The voices of ten of the sitters can be heard throughout the exhibition space as part of a new video work.
All of the healthcare professionals who partook in Here To Stay live and work in Birmingham and the Black Country and almost half of the portrait sitters also work as part of Wolverhampton’s Clinical Commissioning Group. This exhibition portrays a tiny fraction of the amount of the care and resilience exemplified by NHS staff of the Windrush Generation nationwide, from 1948 to the present day.
Here To Stay was commissioned in 2018 by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, in partnership with the University of Birmingham and Recognize Black Heritage and Culture.