“It struck me that perhaps the defining feature of being drafted into the black race was the inescapable robbery of time, because the moments we spent readying the mask or readying ourselves to accept half as much, could not be recovered. The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments. It is the last bottle of wine that you have just uncorked but do not have time to drink. It is the kiss that you do not have time to share, before she walks out of your life. It is the raft of second chance for them, and the twenty-three-hour days for us.”
― Ta-Nehisi Coates: Between The World And Me
This long-form work began in 2008 as an exploration and observation of a group of young men in Handsworth, a few miles outside of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, within the work The Hidden Landscape.
Eight years later, in 2016, at the tail end of what might be referred to as their youth, the documentation began again to observe the ways in which their masculinities manifested itself within the boundaries of space and time. As the work progressed, over the course of years, this concept of the end of a chapter for this particular group of people in a particular community began to mirror a confrontation with change in the wider society of Great Britain.
Handsworth, once a historical site of Black occupancy since the Motherland of Britain sought workers in the city’s ammunition factories during the Second World War, over time has become a space of multi-cultural existence, most recently with the arrival of communities from Eastern Europe.
The shocking Brexit referendum gave way to years of tension and discussion about what eventually would become the end of a historic chapter for the country as a whole. The experiment of multiculturalism appears now to be at an end as Britain begins to redraw its immigration laws, the fallout of which will affect generations to come.
This work in progress, therefore, represents a personal and societal grappling with change. In this particular case, the change manifests itself as one that excludes these individuals. Whereas I initially believed that these men were exiting their acceptance as young people, I realized that they were also exiting an acceptance as being seen as British citizens, especially in the minds of those whose Leave vote meant was one steeped in a desire for a monocultural image of Englishness to be found within a renewed commitment of British branding as historically white.