‘It was time for us to have our voices’: new exhibition allows survivors to tell story of Grenfell victims

·3-min read
Feruza Afewerki (Feruza Afewerki)
Feruza Afewerki (Feruza Afewerki)

A photographer, who lost four family members in the Grenfell fire, has teamed up with survivors and the bereaved for an exhibition she hopes will help keep their stories alive.

Gold & Ashes is a crowdfunded photobook, which provides loved ones with an opportunity to tell the stories of those they lost in the blaze on June 14 2017.

It was created over the past two years by Feruza Afewerki, 28, who lost her sister Amal Ahmedin, three-year-old niece, brother-in-law, and cousin that day.

Speaking exclusively to the Standard, ahead of the outdoor exhibition of the book, Ms Afewerki, who is still in counselling for her grief, said: “I was in a really angry place at the time and I just felt like a lot of people were speaking on our behalf and not hearing directly from the bereaved, and the survivors.

It was hard but I believed it was time for us to finally have our voices and lead the narrative

The fire, which was later discovered to have been because of ACM flammable cladding, started in the early hours at a block of flats in Kensington and Chelsea, one of England’s wealthiest boroughs.

Some of the hundreds of residents inside the building reportedly leapt from the tower as others, trapped inside, desperately tried to find ways to escape.

A total of 72 lives were lost and hundreds of residents displaced.

Ms Afewerki accompanied families of those who died to their places of comfort and talked to them about their lives before the fire.

Mouna (Feruza Afewerki)
Mouna (Feruza Afewerki)

One woman was Bernadette, who lost her brother Raymond ‘Moses’ Bernade to the blaze.

In the photobook, the mother described Moses, who was 63 at the time and lived on the 21st floor of the building , as a “father figure” to all her children and grandchildren.

“He played a vital role in the decisions I made in raising them. Moses laughed with them, played with them, held them when they were sad and needed reassurance and he was, and remains, in memory, an inspiration to all my children and grandchildren,” she said.

Bobby Ross, who lost his father Steven and lived on the 15th floor, said: “I think we have one of the best communities because our community is full of love. We are all connected in one way, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, what culture we’ve seen, we will be there for one another.”

Bernadette (Feruza Afewerki)
Bernadette (Feruza Afewerki)

Ms Afewerki described the interviewees as being like her new family and the sessions as therapeutic for them all.

She admitted that during the process of trying to speak with the Grenfell community she had a few setbacks from those who weren’t emotionally ready to open up about the tragedy.

“It’s just so hard to get yourself to talk about it because how do you begin to wrap your head around it and also accept that people could die in such a horrific way?”

Bobby Ross (Feruza Afewerki)
Bobby Ross (Feruza Afewerki)

Gold & Ashes has been put together by a team of volunteer collaborators with a personal connection and commitment to these stories.

The outdoor exhibition will be followed by the release of an Gold & Ashes photo book and a short film by Candour creative, which also aims to highlight the stories of the bereaved and survivors in July 2021.

The exhibition is on the windows of Bramley Studio on Freston Road, W10 6SZ June 12 to August 31.

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