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  • Writer's pictureZoey Sibanda

How we helped make the Commonwealth Queens Baton

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Many reoccurring themes involved in our initial conversation revolved around being female and the concept of motherhood. This heavily influenced the concept structure and colour, which is something in my opinion the past Batons never really portrayed. After all, the Queen Is herself a woman and mother.

The other concept we were quite keen on exploring was sustainability.

I believe woman and sustainability created when reflecting on the storytelling aspect of the Baton. This project came about at the start of the year, so at that time I was really reflecting on what it means to be sustainable and how I can do my part through my gardening.

The topic became quite a solid forerunning concept.

Regarding ideas, I really wanted to touch on the ever-increasing mental health issues young people are facing. Yes, the games are inclusive and so they should be, but I do feel there is a gap. Yes, we have room for the disabled, but we need to create further space for those that are fighting invisible battles.

Those young people that find it hard to actually step up and find these opportunities, or those who find them but may also find it difficult to pursue them because of various self-esteem issues. I want to speak out for those people.

I can say for me, as a first-born daughter and second generation immigrant, there are a lot of challenges that I’ve faced that have made me aware of silent battles. It was very important to me to make a plea for the recognition of those silent and unrecognised change makers in the Baton. The fabrication process was quite interesting.

Collaborating with product designers and engineers alike, butting heads in healthy and unhealthy ways.

It was both challenging and enlightening at the same time. Sean and Us at Maokwo were quite keen about legacy and I feel that the impact and knowledge I’ve taken away from this project has already made me part of that legacy. Initially, being briefed about the Baton seemed to me more of an engineering commission rather than something I’d like to get involved in as an artist.

However, I went with it anyway, because at that time I was quite interested in academic related subjects, and though I was commissioned as an artist to share ideas and help formulate the concept, my heart was really on brushing shoulders with people that are nothing like me, a source of inspiration and direction, and I got that and more!

Through immersing myself in this experience, I got a few engineering core skills, one of which is soldering. I have now started venturing into stain glass work which is something I would have thought unattainable if I hadn’t soldered before. Though presented with many challenges including deep seated things like discriminatory and oppressive audiences, this experience was a life lesson.

Thank you to Karen Newman, founder of BOM, for inviting Laura Nyahuye/Maokwo to this project.

The Queens Baton was created in collaboration with BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Raymont Osman, Kajul and Maokwo.

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