Moving image installation, commissioned by Leeds Art Gallery
Exhibition dates: October 9th 2009 – January 31st 2010
Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, Leeds, LS1 3AA
Accompanied by a publication ‘Wandering Abroad’: video stills by Corinne Silva, texts by Caryl Phillips and Nigel Walsh.
David Oluwale came to England from Nigeria as a stowaway in 1949 with dreams of studying to become an engineer; twenty years later he was found drowned in the River Aire. Subsequently two police officers were found guilty of assault.
This new film-work traces Oluwale’s journey down the river, his final journey, but also narrates a journey through the city, a journey through time, resonant with the change and transition wrought by contemporary urban development and the experience of migration.
Note on the title:
Wandering Abroad was a definition of vagrancy and emanated from an 1824 English law commonly known as the Vagrancy Act.
“... and every person wandering abroad for placing himself or herself in any public place, street, highway, court or passage, [to]debate or gather alms … shall be deemed a disorderly person within the true intent and meaning of this act; and it shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit such offender ... to the house of correction, there are to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding one calendar month.
... every person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn or outhouse, or in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart or wagon, not having any visible means of subsistence, and not getting a good account of himself or herself; ...shall be deemed a rogue and vagabond ... and it shall be lawful for any justice of the peace to commit such offender to the House of correction there to be kept to hard labor for any time not exceeding three calendar months."
David Oluwale was prosecuted several times under the terms of this offence during the times he spent on the streets of Leeds. Ironically, as an economic migrant come to seek his fortune overseas and realise his dreams of becoming an engineer, ‘Wandering Abroad’ was in a literal sense what he set out to do when he left Nigeria in 1949.
Since the 1824 statute, the Vagrancy Act has been frequently amended. This offence is now rarely prosecuted in most free and democratic societies.
'Quiet Flows the Aire'by Nigel Walsh
'The City by the Water' by Caryl Phillips