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Oluwale Now: Remembering Human Rights in an Age of Crisis


David Oluwale Now - Friday 26 February - University of Leeds

David Oluwale matters as much now as ever. Since his violent death in 1969 many have warned against dwelling on his life, believing Leeds must let go of this painful past in order to move on. Others in the city, however, have felt differently. A number of artists and authors have revisited Oluwale’s ordeal, and the memorial garden now being established by the David Oluwale Memorial Association is offering other ways of understanding past injustice, belonging, and the future of our city. On both sides of the Atlantic recent events are now vindicating these efforts. National responses to the EU asylum crisis are reproducing Oluwale’s institutional mistreatment on a mass scale, while, in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement has revealed that the brutal policework he faced daily belongs neither to the past nor Yorkshire exclusively. Oluwale matters now, then, and not only in Leeds but because his ordeal reverberates through institutional abuses now occurring throughout the US and EU.

Hosted in partnership with DOMA and the University of Leeds, Oluwale Now brings together those whose garden, art and literary work has (like the famous graffiti near the old Hayfield Hotel) collectively acted to Remember Oluwale. An academic panel featuring Kasia Boddy and George McKay will reflect on gardening, freedom and memory, while our gardening theme will then be extended as the acclaimed artist Corinne Silva presents both her short film on Oluwale Wandering Abroad and her new work on gardening in warzones Garden State. Our city’s preeminent literary artist Caryl Phillips will reflect on his work excavating Oluwale’s life in Leeds, and the Guardian journalist Gary Younge will reflect on police conduct in the context of his extraordinary coverage of the Black Lives Matter campaign. Here we ask why popular narratives of racial progress are now proving so powerless in the face of an old and all too familiar logic in which images of racial dehumanisation are again being used to justify acts of racist violence. Out of Oluwale’s ordeal, for all its horrors, did forms of community resistance emerge which we might rekindle in the present crisis? What might we learn from the antiracist activism of the past, and how might we reclaim the collective energy of outrage? How can we use such lessons, harnessing them in a contemporary moment of rising homelessness, ongoing sexual exploitation, and anti-immigrant hatred? Oluwale Now offers a moment of local and global connection, a chance to take stock of his life and death amid a contemporary crisis in which the basic rights of so many are again being denied.

Leeds University, Friday 26 February 2016
Remembering Human Rights in an Age of Crisis

2:20-3:40pm. Common Wealth? DOMA, Radical Gardening and Freedom after Empire.
An academic panel inspired by the David Oluwale Memorial Garden. Kasia Boddy (Faculty of English Cambridge), George McKay (UEA), Andrew Warnes (School of English, Leeds).

4:00-5:00pm. Corinne Silva, Wandering Abroad and Garden State
The London artist will here present her acclaimed 2009 Wandering Abroad, a film following in the footsteps of Oluwale’s life, as well as Garden State, her more recent project on the politics of gardening in the suburbs and conflict zones.

5:20-6:20pm. Caryl Phillips, Oluwale Then and Now
Chaired by Max Farrar of the David Oluwale Memorial Association, Caryl Phillips will here speak about the inspiration behind his work on David Oluwale’s life, Foreigners (2007).

6.30-7.30pm. Gary Younge, Black Lives Matter and Transatlantic Policing in 2016.
Chaired by John McLeod, Gary Younge will here speak about his experiences in the United States covering the Black Lives Matter movement as well as the acts of police aggression that led to it.

The day will also feature a live performance by local Leeds musicians, and it will be followed by a wine reception. Information about tickets will be posted here in the New Year. For any enquiries, please contact Andrew Warnes at