The Real Faces of the Royal Borough brings together digital portraiture by professional Canadian artist Nevada Lynn and research on housing, displacement and gentrification conducted by geographer (and life-long Kensington resident) Sharda Rozena. The exhibition highlights twelve people who experience or have experienced displacement, gentrification, and other housing injustices in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea- a borough associated with the mega-rich, empty homes and since 2017 the Grenfell Tower fire.
We ask the question, who does Kensington and Chelsea belong too? Especially when there are ongoing tensions and fractured geographies around ownership and space in the Royal Borough. Together Sharda and Nevada highlight the people who are negatively impacted by this ongoing gentrification, which include displacement, transient community, high costs of living and unaffordable rents. The portraits give these housing issues a human face. By portraying the residents who face and address real-life housing injustices in the most unequal borough in the UK, we use portraiture as a form of housing activism.
In January 2022 Sharda went on an ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) funded Overseas Institutional Visit to research housing and gentrification at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. There she met, and lived with, Nevada, who was studying at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Since this initial meeting they have worked together to curate this exhibition.
The exhibition has been funded by ESRC Impact Acceleration Account 2019: Leicester (ES/T501967/1).