The Baton as a conversation starter
Updated: Aug 11, 2022
For me, as a mother, artist, human, woman, woven into the conversations, collaborations, partnerships I have, is the desire to build a legacy,
a legacy that will hopefully touch lives, build bridges, help us to see each other beyond the colour of our skin. We are all human with red blood running through our veins.
The decision to be part of a project that centred around the Commonwealth was not an easy decision, bearing in mind the history of the commonwealth. One of the important deciding factors for me was Legacy.
l quickly realised that it was important for me to be part of this rare opportunity. To tell the story, to be the voice that will inspire marginalised communities as well as ALL classes, that ‘together, we can’. My heart was on women and younger people.
We are living in a world that has a long way to go to do with representation. Historical events like the Commonwealth Games are a platform to communicate meaningful messages that in turn births LEGACY (inheritance heritage).
I grew up around creativity, l enjoyed exploring all forms of creativity. Once in the UK I further explored my love of crafts and designing. Little did l know that my creativity will weave in advocacy, community, humanity.
About 21 years ago, when I migrated to the UK, as I always say, l became a black woman. Not only did l become a black woman, I noted the culture differences pretty fast.
The general consensus is: it’s hard to make it in the arts and culture industry, well, tell that to a migrant artist or an artist of colour, the challenges are layered, therefore harder. As a result of my lived experience and observing other minoritised humans lived experiences l was compelled to found the organisation Maokwo, supporting marginalised, minoritised groups refugees, asylum seekers and migrants artists, engaging communities using Art as a Vehicle.
The Queen’s Baton project consumed me. I became deeply invested like never before and l know why:
- It was my lived experience: therefore, it was deeply personal
- It was the Queen’s Baton, that’s a rare opportunity
- l didn’t want it to be just a Baton that celebrates the Games and that’s it. I wanted it to be meaningful.
It was to do with the obvious, complexities connected to the history of the Commonwealth, it was the complexities that were coming up in our collaboration with a team of white male humans, who were commercially driven (not in touch with the Commonwealth lived experience) vs I, a lived experience artist, young creatives from minoritised backgrounds and a community grassroot lived experience organisation. Tough combination.
Here are some of the essential points I kept in mind throughout the project:
1. Women are thermostats, women are key to thriving communities around the world, they are mothers, aunties, midwives. The Queen is a mother, grandmother. How do we make her relevant? How does a woman in a village in Kenya, relate to the Queen?
2. The wear and tear of the Queen’s Baton was an important element, message: It was a representation of exchanging wisdom. Older generation to the younger. Younger generation to the older. Passing the Baton. Passing wisdom.
3. It was important to use non-precious materials like copper, aluminium, materials that are relatable to Commonwealth countries, materials that represent everyday humans. Affordable, recyclable materials.
My expertise as an artist, designer, storyteller and advocate for minoritised/marginalised groups and women was key to this project, as a testament to what some may call ignorance or testament to my never tiring hope for a united world. But l didn’t anticipate the trauma and emotional labour that later came with my role.
Collaborations can be challenging, however, this was my hardest yet.
My mind is still processing that I’ve had the opportunity to be part of something so big, something beyond me. The opportunity to spread Love on a global level, it’s been humbling, exciting, terrifying and surreal. I’ve learnt a lot, met amazing humans along the way.
These are extracts from the 2022 booklet Tip of the Iceberg: Laura Nyahuye, The Artist behind the Queen’s Baton. (linked below)
Thank you to Karen Newman, founder of BOM, for inviting Laura Nyahuye/Maokwo to this project.