“There are so many Windrush stories we will never know about;
it was important to me to highlight the Windrush generation’s invaluable contribution to the U.K. even if I was only scratching the surface. Their contribution and resilience undeniably helped change and shape the country for the better, and this must be remembered, celebrated, and honoured by all.”
Ngadi Smart, Artist
The Empire Windrush was not the first ship to carry migrants from the Caribbean, but the story of its arrival has become symbolic of migration to post-war Britain.
This new artwork was commissioned as part of our Windrush 75 commemorations and was directly inspired by the records we hold. The National Archives houses many documents related to this voyage, including the iconic passenger list. The artwork was free to all and could be seen on the ground floor of our building throughout the Summer of 2023.
Passengers disembarking onto Tilbury docks on 22 June 1948 bought different skills and knowledge, and were encouraged to fill the labour shortage in post-war Britain. Among them were over 800 people from the Caribbean, including ex-servicemen. Their arrival galvanised debates about who had the right to belong.
These British citizens faced discrimination despite the long history of Black presence in Britain and its Empire. Those who settled here had a huge impact on British society, fighting for change to prevent future generations facing the same barriers they encountered.
Ngadi Smart is a Sierra Leonean visual artist and designer. Her practice consists of illustration, photography, and mixed media collage. She is motivated by the representation of minorities, highlighting cultural identity and racial discrimination, as well as themes on feminism and gender. She has illustrated for The Atlantic, Time Out London, Eastpak, The Guardian, Penguin’s Riverhead Books in NYC, and London’s Faber’s Children.
Find out more at: www.ngadismart.com
To support the development of this artwork, Records Specialists at The National Archives invited Ngadi Smart into the archives to explore our repositories and view a curated display of documents related to the arrival of the Empire Windrush and the broader Black British experience.
These documents were chosen for their insights into the Empire Windrush voyage and reception of arrivals; their reflections on the reality of life for Black British individuals in the post-war period; and to show the wider role of Empire.