Alberta Whittle: The Axe Forgets, But The Tree Remembers


As part of the exhibition Crafted Selves: The Unfinished Conversation, Fife Contemporary is pleased to present the Scottish premiere of Alberta Whittle’s film The Axe Forgets, But The Tree Remembers, screening at The Byre Theatre, St Andrews on Wednesday 17 January at 6.30pm. The film will be followed by an in-conversation event featuring Alberta Whittle in collaboration with the Crafted Selves exhibition curator, Cat Dunn, and Jill Sutherland, Lecturer of Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of St Andrews.

The Axe Forgets, But The Tree Remembers is a multi-voiced portrayal of members of the Windrush Generation and their descendants. Weaving together the experiences of her own family, stories sourced from Hackney Archives and conversation with the borough’s Windrush residents, Whittle’s film highlights the animosity experienced by those who first migrated from the Caribbean to the UK.

In the film, Whittle dissolves the notion of time and space, connecting different narratives, archival material and artworks through hurricanes, the sea and naval history. Together, these references to water play a central role with their symbolism and poignancy to Windrush migration. The dramatic and unsettling backdrop also sets the tone for her conversation with Hackney resident Janice Knight, whose legal battle for justice for the police brutality experienced by her family reflects on the state of uncertainty and precarity which continues to be felt by the Black community today.

Tickets are available from the Byre Theatre here.
Pay What You Can £3.00 / £5.00 / £7.00

Alberta Whittle
The Axe Forgets, But The Tree Remembers, 2022
English, with captions*
Running Time: 51:30mins
Appropriate for audiences 12+
Potential triggers: this film speaks openly about racism, violence and grief

Courtesy of the Artist and The Modern Institute/ Toby Webster Ltd., Glasgow 2023.

Part of the Hackney Windrush Public Programme, 2022, curated by Create London in partnership with Hackney Council, with support from Freelands Foundation.

This event is made possible with support from the Centre for Contemporary Art, School of Art History, University of St Andrews.

Barbadian-Scottish artist Alberta Whittle’s multifaceted practice is preoccupied with developing a personal response to the legacies of the Atlantic slave trade, unpicking its connections to institutional racism, white supremacy and climate emergency in the present. Against an oppressive political background Whittle aims to foreground hope and engage with different forms of resistance. Whittle represented Scotland in the 59th Venice Biennale and is a 2022 recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Awards for Artists. In 2020, she was awarded a Turner Bursary and the Frieze Artist Award, she was the Margaret Tait Award winner for 2018/19. Whittle recently presented a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and currently has a major solo presentation on display at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), Edinburgh. In early October Whittle opened her first exhibition at The Modern Institute, Osborne Street, Glasgow.

Cat Dunn is a social justice researcher/producer, activist, and artist. Her work seeks to engage and create dialogue about identity as seen through marginalised communities, and engages additional inclusive subjects such as the civil rights movement, slavery, racism, and feminism, often investigating those aspects that are all too frequently hidden or misrepresented. The overall basis of her practice is grounded on creating or adding to Black Space, where inclusivity and diversity are key. Dunn holds an MLitt Curatorial Practice (Contemporary Art) with Distinction from The Glasgow School of Art and The University of Glasgow, and a BA Hons in Jewellery Design and Silversmithing from The Glasgow School of Art. She is a doctoral candidate at DJCAD. She has been a trustee for Transmission Gallery, mentor with Thistles & Dandelions, and started the GSA PoC Collective to challenge/change the curriculum to bring about a more inclusive environment.

Jill Sutherland is an independent curator, emerging scholar, and lecturer in Museum Studies. Her permanent redisplay of the Plantation Day Book, Barbados, 1722 at the Holburne Museum in Bath (2021) marked a significant moment in the South West of England’s engagement with colonial history and regional collections. Taking a collaborative approach, this project included contributions from Barbados Museum and Historical Society and Alberta Whittle, and resulted in a film documenting young people’s responses and a digital exhibit. Jill’s research is concerned with representations of Britain’s diaspora, anti-racism, and decoloniality in pedagogy and curatorial practice. She currently tutors in Art History at the University of St Andrews and works as an independent consultant for museums and arts organisations, including the British Art Network.

The in-conversation event is chaired by Catherine Spencer, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews. In 2021, she co-curated the exhibition Life Support: Forms of Care in Art and Activism with Caroline Gausden, Kirsten Lloyd and Nat Raha at Glasgow Women’s Library. Her book Beyond the Happening: Performance Art and the Politics of Communication was published by Manchester University Press in their Rethinking Art’s Histories series in 2020. With Jo Applin and Amy Tobin she is the editor of London Art Worlds: Mobile, Contingent and Ephemeral Networks, 1960–80 (Penn State University Press, 2018). Her essays have appeared in Art History, Art Journal, ARTMargins, Tate Papers, Parallax and Oxford Art Journal.

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