Following the death of George Floyd and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Art Collection at the University was approached to participate in the Scotland-wide Black Lives Matter mural trail. This trail created by Wezi Mhura as a visual symbol of solidarity with those who have been affected by racial injustice.
We commissioned Alloa-based artist, Suzanne Williams to create a piece as the University contribution to the trail. Suzanne created a sculptural piece Do Better, which is designed to highlight those who have experienced and strived against injustices.
Art Curator Jane Cameron said “Do Better is designed to make us think about our thoughts and actions. It is sited at the end of the loch bridge in the heart of the University campus where it will be passed on a daily basis by current students. We hope that the installation will have an impact and inspire positive action”
Suzanne said of the work:
“Each piece on the trail is it’s own moving cog within the wider movement. My piece is about focusing on black men and women who have been overlooked and forgotten. I know others are focusing on the rarely perceived racism in day to day interactions. These issues are both just as real as the other and while separate, both feed into the widespread problems we are all working on to combat. The hope is that people will see a work of art on the trail that inspires thought and understanding and furthermore inspires them to seek out other pieces on the trail. To me the trail is about separately changing the world together” .
Placed at the heart of the Stirling campus near the loch bridge and funded with kind support from the University of Stirling, UCU, Students Union and the Macrobert Arts Centre, Do Better is clearly visible to students, staff, and visitors.
The installation is designed to evolve through the active participation of those who view it. Anyone who would like to is invited to add names which they feel are significant to the Do Better website, On site this can be accessed through a QR code on the artwork.
Suzanne said of the idea of adding names:
“While the first names on the piece and all those that are added in the future are hugely important to the statement I’m making, the point of the ‘Do Better’, is to highlight the lack of recognition afforded to their names. Black people in this country know what life is like and the difficulties they can face daily, so the focus of ‘Do Better’ and others on the trail has to be pointed towards getting the attention of those who are lucky enough to not have these problems. For instance, John Edmonstone, a teacher at Edinburgh University, whose work greatly helped Charles Darwin fully formulate his theory of evolution. That’s huge and very few people will know his name or that of Ignatius Sancho, the first black man to vote in Britain. So the names are of course vital but I want people to see the list of historically important black people, realise they’ve never heard of them, see the list continue to grow and gain an understanding of the scope of the issue and to understand the message of ‘Do Better’“
Individuals which Suzanne has highlighted include:
John Edmonstone – One of Darwin’s teachers at Edinburgh University, His methods of taxidermy helped Darwin’s research into evolution.
Andrew Watson – the 1st black player international football for scotland 1881-1883
Ignatius Sancho Writer, composer, shopkeeper and abolitionist, Ignatius Sancho was celebrated in the late 18th-century as a man of letters, a social reformer and an acute observer of English life.
Geoff Palmer Alongside careers in research, science, technology and teaching, brewing science pioneer Professor Sir Geoff Palmer has contributed greatly to civil society and has a keen interest in Scottish-Caribbean historical connections.
When asked her thoughts about the term ‘revolution’ and whether it is relevant to her practice, and the idea of Do Better, Suzanne says:
“Revolutions are made up of people; their experiences, their passion and their pain. Every piece on this trail is a little piece of a much larger revolution. That is how change happens. When enough people are united to fix what is truly broken. I think it’s clear from everything going on in the world that change is long overdue. So yes, revolution is a relevant word. ‘Do Better’ is my part, what I can contribute is my art. My daughter will have a piece on the trail up in Dundee. That’s her contribution to change and there are so many who have yet to be recognized out there changing the world in their own beautiful way. I’m hoping this piece will make people stop and think of those out there making a positive change and then add their names and contributions to the piece to record their part in this movement”
For further information about the Black Lives Matter movement https://blacklivesmatter.com/
For information about Black History Month https://www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk/
On 15th October 6.30 – 8pm in conjunction with Scene Stirling we are hosting an online event Do Better: A Conversation with Wezi Mhura and Suzanne Williams about the Black Lives Matter Mural Trail. This event is hosted by Damian Etone (Co-Director of Msc in Human Rights) and Gemma Robinson (Postcolonial Research Group) from the University of Stirling