Public art to honour African East Enders

A cultural project aimed at increasing awareness of African East Enders in Tower Hamlets has been launched in the borough.

Communities of Liberation was officially unveiled by the Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Cllr Maium Talukdar at the Local History Library on 22 February.

The project will focus on finding and sharing stories of individuals who lived here in the 17th and 18th centuries. Funding for the project has been provided by Historic England and the council.

Cllr Talukdar, Cabinet Member for Education, Youth and Lifelong Learning said:

“Tower Hamlets has a rich history and has been a place of refuge for people for hundreds of years.

“There is no public recognition that people from Africa and the Caribbean lived in what is now Tower Hamlets while the transatlantic slave trade was operating.

“Today we begin the process of acknowledging this – that African people were here as a result of British colonialism and the trades which came through the docks here in this borough.”

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman has agreed to the creation of a £120,000 outdoor public memorial to Africans who lived here in the three centuries before the West India Docks were even built.

Mayor Lutfur Rahman said:

“This memorial will be testament not only to the terrible story of enslavement and trauma, but it will honour the untold stories of self-liberation, resistance and solidarity.  The stories of African East Enders.”

Tower Hamlets residents of African heritage are now being sought to research and develop creative responses to these histories.

Six people without prior experience in history or visual arts will be recruited as Co-Producers to carry out their own creative investigations. The group of Co-Producers will be paid at London Living Wage, thanks to funding from Historic England. Their work will inform the process of establishing the outdoor memorial.

Cllr Talukdar added:

“It will be fascinating to find out about the stories and everyday lives of residents who lived here 300 years ago, where they socialised, worked and worshipped.”

To find out more about Communities of Liberation, visit



Posted on Monday 4th March 2024