My heart will always be in Brixton: Olive Morris

An exhibition of artwork by Linett Kamala inspired by the activism of Olive Morris

By Black Cultural Archives

Papers and Photographs from the National Black Womens ConferenceBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Olive Morris


Olive Morris was an inspirational Black community leader and activist.

Born in St Catherine, Jamaica in 1952, at the age of 9 she moved to London, U.K. to join her parents who had previously migrated there as part of the Windrush generation.

Before her premature death in 1979 at the age of 27, she had made a remarkable contribution to fighting against racism, injustice and inequality.

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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She was a passionate advocate on issues such as housing, women’s rights and the fight against racial discrimination through activism & protest. 

Olive Morris was a member of the British Black Panthers Youth Collective, this was at a time when there was little legislation against racial discrimination in the U.K. She was also co-founder of the Brixton Black Women’s Group and Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD).

The organisation ran a number of campaigns such as fighting for women rights and taking a stand against inequality in education and police brutality.

Learn more about OWAAD and the Black Women's Movement

Brixton Pound note featuring Olive MorrisBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Education

Despite leaving school with no qualifications, Olive Morris went on to study at Manchester University and helped to establish a supplementary school. After campaigning with local Black parents for better education provision for their children, to counter the institutionalised racism within schools.

The Seven Characteristics of Olive Morris by Linett KamalaBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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In 1977, Olive made a visit to China as part of a student delegation put together by the Society for Anglo Chinese Understanding.  She wrote a report on what she had learnt and the experience shaped her views on global solutions to social injustice.

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Whilst studying and campaigning Olive would use a typewriter similar to the one in this photograph of the artwork by Linett Kamala entitled ‘The Seven Characteristics of Olive Morris’. 

Olive Morris resisting eviction (1970s)Black Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Fight against injustice

Even from a young age, Olive Morris was fearless in challenging injustice wherever she encountered it.  

In 1969 at the age of 17 Olive got caught up in the incident involving Nigerian diplomat Clement Gomwalk who had been accused by the police of stealing his own car. 

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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There are different accounts as to what happened - Olive is said to have intervened, was handcuffed, fought back and then charged with assault by the police.  Following her release from Brixton police station she was taken to King’s College Hospital where photographs were taken of her badly bruised face.

The incident marked Olive’s introduction to activism and she continued to fight against police brutality.

My heart will always be in Brixton exhibition visual (2020) by Linett KamalaBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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2019-20: My heart will always be in Brixton

As part of the Lambeth Town Hall Art Programme artist and educator Linett Kamala developed artworks in response to the activism of Olive Morris and in particular her, interest in education and speaking up for young people.

My heart will always be in Brixton (Olive Morris) (2020) by Linett KamalaBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Linett Kamala first exhibited her Olive Morris inspired paintings ‘Courage’ and ‘Resilience’ as part of the Voices From The Front Line, a multimedia arts and heritage project in 2018. 

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Inspired by the political and social history of Railton Road, Brixton, U.K, an area that was home to the Caribbean community in the post Windrush period and where Olive Morris once lived. 

 The Voices From The Front Line project took place at 198 Contemporary Arts and Learning, also located on Railton Road. 

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Brixton is also the location of Black Cultural Archives, the only national heritage centre dedicated to collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of African and Caribbean people in Britain.

Artist Linett KamalaBlack Cultural Archives

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The Artist

Linett Kamala is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and carnivalist born in London, U.K. to Jamaican parents.  

As Founding Director of Lin Kam Art, her passion for enriching the lives of others through art, well-being and education is demonstrated by decades of partnerships with numerous organisations, including Black Cultural Archives.  

Trained in the therapeutic and educational application of Arts and deeply rooted in community empowerment, Linett’s socially engaged creative practice ranges from developing school leaders, to taking up space through Carnival culture.

My heart will always be in Brixton (Olive Morris) (2020) by Linett KamalaBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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As part of her residency, Linett Kamala sought to explore : 
If Olive Morris were alive today, what form would her educational activism take?

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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From September to December 2019, once a week, Linett based herself in the foyer of Lambeth Town Hall, across the road from Black Cultural Archives, to explore this question.  There she engaged in dialogue with people who visited this civic space. 

Some conversations were planned, others occurred by chance.  Many of the encounters sparked inspiration for the work Linett created during the residency, in the form of live art, talking events and workshops. 

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Due to nature of the civic building the exhibition has been seen by over one thousand people; from a 4 week old baby being registered by their parents, to making an appearance in the background photographs of newly-wed couples.

Linett was also honoured to give four of Olive’s siblings and their extended families a special guided tour of the exhibition.

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Amongst the layers of sign writing, graffiti and other mark-marking in Brixton’s streetscape, many local people wish for Olive Morris’s name to more prominent. 

At the start of the residency in September 2019, a Lambeth Council staff member proclaimed in her conversation with Linett “Let her (Olive) be visible!” 

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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The sentiment was later captured by Linett in this painting through her expressive signature ‘freestyle calligraffiti’, bringing a sense of urgency to words ‘Olive Morris’, compelling the viewer to know her name through repetition and expressive script

Recipe for a Happy Mind by Linett KamalaBlack Cultural Archives

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The ‘Recipe for a Happy Mind’ Olive Morris Legacy Project

On a trip to America in the summer of 2019, Linett met, for the first time, her long lost Aunt Rose Morris (no relation to Olive Morris, but a nice co-incidence and Linett’s birth surname).

In the midst of this highly emotional visit, Linett experienced delight when she found a cousin, who, like her, had a kitchen scroll full of wisdom, humour and advice – an artefact often found in Jamaican homes.

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Through her Aunt Rose, Linett discovered a huge extended family in the USA, Canada and Jamaica.  Linett provided the missing U.K. link when she connected with over 200 members of her family for a reunion in Jamaica, in March 2020.

In this painting ‘Recipe for a Happy Mind’ Linett has created her own kitchen scroll on an enlarged scale – capturing the ingredients she has found essential to keeping herself in good spirits.

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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The painting forms the basis of the creative Olive Morris workshops that Linett runs, where she encourages participants to express their emotions through their art 

The Norwood School students, London in December 2019Black Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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The Norwood School - London, UK

Over a period of two weeks in December 2019 Linett ran ‘Recipe for a Happy Mind’ workshops for Year 12 students from The Norwood School, London, U.K.
 
Art students learnt about Olive Morris and took inspiration from Linett’s expressive text-based paintings to explore the themes of mental health and wellbeing. Their stunning artworks were hung in Lambeth Town Hall, London as part of the ‘My heart will always be in Brixton’ exhibition.

Success School, Hanover, Jamaica in the Recipe for a Happy Mind workshop 10 March 2020Black Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Success School - Hanover, Jamaica

On 10 March 2020 artist Linett Kamala self-funded a ‘Recipe for a Happy Mind’ Olive Morris legacy project which all pupils at the Success School in Hanover, Jamaica took part in.

The school places wellbeing at the heart of its curriculum through it team of caring and dedicated staff.
 
The pupils learnt why Olive Morris, who had originally left Jamaica for the U.K. at the same age as many of them, had gone onto become an iconic figure to so many people around the world – admired for her fearless determination to fight injustices and tackle inequality.

Success School, Hanover, Jamaica in the Recipe for a Happy Mind workshop 10 March 2020Black Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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In addition to creating works of art and devising new poems, some of the pupils also got to experience the ‘My heart will always be in Brixton’ exhibition via a virtual reality headset which Linett had brought along. 

 Playing now, is an example of the impromptu ‘Recipe for a Happy Mind’ poems made by the Success School pupils.

Brixton Pound note featuring Olive MorrisBlack Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Significant events took place during the 2019 – 2020 timeline of the ‘My heart will always be in Brixton’ exhibition which related to the political themes of Olive Morris’s campaigning.  

These included a general election, release of the Windrush report, the Covid-19 global pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.

Ann-Marie and Asha at My heart will always be in Brixton opening Event October 2019Black Cultural Archives

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Olive Morris’s Legacy

“As the physical environment of Brixton in London continues to change, buildings and gardens once named after Olive Morris sadly no longer exist, it is therefore important that new ways are found to continue to honour her contribution for future generations to appreciate.

Now, more than ever, people are facing various challenges and pressures in their everyday lives. 

By looking back at the struggles and triumphs Olive Morris experienced during the 1970s, I hope that in our present day, we can take inspiration from her determined character to feel empowered to bring about positive change” 

- Linett Kamala (artist / educator)

My Heart will always be in Brixton audio, voiced by Linett Kamala
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Learn more about OWADD and the Black Women's Movement

For more information on Black British History, explore the collection of Black Cultural Archives onsite and at g.co/blackculturalarchives 

Credits: Story

An artistic response to the activism of Olive Morris by Linett Kamala
See more from Linett at her website & social media
Artwork copyright held by the artist, no reproduction without consent of the artist



With thanks to:

Black Cultural Archives 
Lambeth Town Hall Art Programme 
Remembering Olive Collective
Lambeth Archives
Lin Kam Art

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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