skip to main content

Ronan Mckenzie Photographs

Small Island Photography exhibition image - group of people standing by the sea, under blue skies

Ronan Mckenzie Photographs

Exhibition in the Lyttelton Lounge
Friday 3 May - November
Free during opening hours

Inspired by Andrea Levy’s Small Island and Helen Edmundson’s adaption for the National Theatre, photographer Ronan Mckenzie has been commissioned by the National Theatre to respond to the post war journeys undertaken by Caribbean men and women between 1948 -1971. Photographed in Leigh-on-Sea on the shores of the Thames estuary, McKenzie’s documentary style images subtly connect ideas of seascapes, water, arrivals and new beginnings to Levy’s Small Island.

Ronan Mckenzie said: “For me this series represents the multiplicity and diversity in experiences of Caribbean immigrants, that begun in 1948 with the arrival of the Empire Windrush. Both being islands, The Caribbean and United Kingdom are linked by water, which inspired the artistic direction for the series. Similarly, immigration and personal journeys are sentiments that many people can relate to on a number of levels, and the clusters of people within my images aim to depict the connection between many of these stories.”

Curated by Natasha Bonnelame, the exhibition takes water as a central theme reflected not only in terms of the location but also in the colour of the textiles and the intricate finger waves of the hairstyles. Beautifully crafted shots of individuals are grouped with images of the collective, an important and significant detail in the development of the African Caribbean experience in the UK. The subjects in the photographs are all theatre makers living in or around London today.

“The majority of Windrush images are of young men, but women were there too. They were defiant and purposeful. We see this in Andrea Levy's Small Island and Ronan Mckenzie's considered and arresting images centre the women in the collective. This is both important and necessary.”
Natasha Bonnelame

Ronan Mckenzie is photographer, director and curator from Walthamstow, North East London. Ronan has worked with brands including Nike, Stella McCartney and Universal Standard, and publications including i-D, Vogue US and The Travel Almanac. She recently funded and curated an exhibition titled I’M HOME, which featured four black British female photographers and aimed to create a truly accessible art space. Ronan is currently working on a range of projects across a number of artistic disciplines.

Natasha Bonnelame holds a PhD from the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London where she has taught on Black British Literature and Caribbean Women’s Writing. She is Archive Associate at the National Theatre and is currently writing a book on black British theatre to be published in 2020.


Related Talks and Events

Caribbean Women’s Diaspora Sat 18 May, 2pm
A New Beacon: Caribbean Artists Movement Thu 23 May, 6.30pm
War to Windrush: Black Women in Britain 1939–1948 Mon 17 June, 6pm
A Hole in Babylon – Talk on Horace Ové’s work and film screening Fri 12 July, 6.30pm
Standing on the Shoulders: Black Women Actors in the UK from 1950s–1980s Sat 20 July, 2pm

For all Small Island Talks and Events please click here