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Hydar Dewachi

What happened when gal-dem imagined a sustainable future at the V&A?

We took over the V&A for a Friday Late, encouraging people to imagine sustainable futures through workshops, performances and panels.

04 Nov 2021

Nearly five years to the day since gal-dem’s first ever takeover at London’s V&A Museum, we were thrilled to host another Friday Late on 29 October 2021, exploring the theme of sustainability through workshops, live performances, film screenings and panels. For more than 20 years, the V&A’s Friday Late programme has created room for visitors to engage with emerging artists and designers, and to explore contemporary issues within the museum’s space.

From learning how to knit and mend our own clothes, to uncovering alternative forms of housing, our event encouraged people to radically rethink and creatively imagine what a sustainable future might look like. 

Here are the highlights from our 2021 Friday Late at the V & A Museum: 

Panels

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

The first panel of the night was hosted by our Culture Editor, Kemi Alemoru and featured sustainability pioneers such as Aja Barber, author of Consumed: The need for collective change; colonialism, climate change & consumerism, Josephine Phillips, founder of clothing repairs app Sojo, and Shakaila Forbes-Bell, founder and editor of Fashion is Psychology. Shakaila spoke about the tricks fashion retailers use to encourage consumers to buy and spend more, while Josephine explained how fast fashion so often exploits women workers in the Global South, adding that for her, sustainability is rooted in feminist values. 

“This conversation [about sustainability] is a win for everyone – except the billionaires,” said Aja. The panellists also gave advice on adopting more eco-friendly shopping habits, like taking a deep breath, pausing and asking yourself if you really need something before you make the purchase, as Shakaila suggested. Josephine shared her experiences of founding Sojo and transitioning from fast fashion brands to entirely secondhand clothes. 

“This conversation [about sustainability] is a win for everyone – except the billionaires”

Aja Barber

Niellah Arboine, our Lifestyle Editor, hosted the second panel of the night in discussion with sustainable fashion designers Abigail Ajobi, founder of a luxury streetwear brand that uses sustainable deadstock fabric, Krishma Sabbarwal, an emerging fashion designer who seeks to draw attention to social and political through garments, and Ibukun Baldwin, founder of Bukky Baldwin Ltd, a fashion brand which provides training and employment opportunities for marginalised communities. The three designers talked us through their creative processes and forcing change though ethical production processes, in what is often an unethical industry, as well as the need for big brands to be socially responsible.

Workshops

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

We were lucky to work with two brilliant partners for the wonderful workshopst, giving our audience practical experience of making and remaking clothes. Stitch & Story taught the basics of knitting to get people started on the first step of their crafting journey and helping people discover the magic of knitting. Yi Crafts London ran a workshop on Sashiko and Boro, using a traditional Japanese craft to demonstrate how we can jazz up old denim patches and mend our own clothes with threaded patterns.

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

Performances and music

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

In the grand setting of the V&A’s main entrance, guests danced to the beats of DJs Marie Solange and Lil C, who filled the space with vibrant sounds. In the Raphael Court, which houses a selection of full scale 16th century Renaissance paintings, Lucinda Chua performed a selection of ethereal original songs, while walking down an aisle in the middle of the room in a red Valentino dress. The soulful sound of her cello resonated throughout the gallery, as she sang ‘Feel Something’ and ‘Until I Fall’ against the backdrop of the classical paintings and in front of a mesmerised audience. 

Installations

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

If you feel disheartened by the prospect of waiting for justice, it could be time to fight for it yourself

Aimée Grant Cumberbatch

Throughout the V&A, we used installations of images, text and films to prompt people to radically rethink how we’re living, whether it be by reconnecting with nature or choosing alternative housing solutions. As Aimée Grant Cumberbatch writes in this piece about radical gardening, “if you feel disheartened by the prospect of waiting for justice, it could be time to fight for it yourself.” In the context of the current housing crisis, Lisa Insansa’s words explored alternatives to conventional housing, from squatting to vanlife. These texts were accompanied by colourful illustrations by Parishma Patani and Hayfaa Alchalabi.

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

In the museum’s Fashion room, we screened four short films by upcoming creatives of colour. These Shorties explored themes of culture and heritage through food, dance, fabric and film. Bo Yaka Remix (2021) by Barbara John and Daniel Amoakoh follows a woman decorated with pearls and jewels, as she dances to the hypnotic rhythm of the sea. Her community participates in the Mami Wata ceremony, which honours Mami Wata, a Vodun god who lives in the ocean depths. Gidi Gidi Bụ Ugwu Eze (‘Unity is Strength’) (2017) by Akinola Davies Jr and Ruth Ossai celebrate fashion, fabric and creativity through following young Igbo women as they take part in a beauty pageant. The Temple of Sleepy Chan (2018) by Jade Ang Jackman and Claire Yurika Davis lures the audience in with dreamy sounds and visuals. Through calming tea rituals, centring on rest and hypnotic aesthetics, the filmmakers hope to critique the intense pace of life under capitalism. And finally, Stephen Isaac-Wilson directs Traces, which features the musician cktrl. The short film explores brotherhood, unity and the influence of the past on the present through architecture, fashion and music. 

Photography courtesy of Hydar Dewachi

We hope that this Friday Late has inspired people to explore different ways of being sustainable, whether it means taking up the sewing needle or starting your own garden. You can follow our efforts to cover news around climate change and the environment by reading our ‘It’s Happening Now’ series.