CENL Event

5th April 2021

British Library: Khadija Saye – in this space we breathe

“We exist in the marriage of physical and spiritual remembrance. It’s in these spaces…[that] we identify with our physical and imagined bodies.” – Khadija Saye

The British Library’s public spaces are closed for the moment.

Following the latest government advice and to keep everyone safe the library closed the Reading Rooms, galleries and public spaces in St Pancras and Boston Spa.

Until then, you can explore our exhibitions from home.  

Explore the wonderful treasures in Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word when you take our virtual tour, or jump into our interactive UK map to discover locations linked to women’s activism near you or explore other stories on the BL’s Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights web resource.


Entry to this exhibition is included in your ticket if you are visiting Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights, Hebrew Manuscripts: Journeys of the Written Word, or Treasures of the British Library.

Composed of nine powerfully evocative self-portraits, this display of prints by Gambian-British artist Khadija Saye explores her enduring fascination with traditions of spirituality, and marks the artist’s concern with ‘how trauma is embodied in the black experience’.

Saye grew up in London, and her work and photographic technique experiment with the contrast and balance between her life in Britain and The Gambia. Throughout the series Saye uses objects to convey the importance of her personal connection to Gambian rituals – from purification to protection, the artworks demonstrate her desire for moments of spiritual grounding.

Saye and her mother, Mary Ajaoi Augustus Mendy, were tragically killed in the Grenfell fire in 2017.  Sadly, many of Saye’s emotive, multi-layered and profound artworks, as well as objects used in them, were also lost. In the same year, her works were displayed in the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

This display commemorates Saye’s personal and professional growth, her creative exploration of alternative definitions of femininity, and her enduring artistic legacy. Saye’s work is also featured in our current exhibition Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights which runs until February 2021.

All tickets must be pre-booked at the moment. Please remember to keep a safe distance from other visitors, and you must wear a face covering at all times.

Find out how we’re welcoming you to the Library safely.

Image credit: Sothiou
Courtesy of the Studio of Nicola Green and Jealous
© The Estate of Khadija Saye, London