S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys and Hackney Carnival artwork close Hackney’s Black History Season in style

Hackney’s Black History in the Making season will end on a high with two special exhibitions close to Hackney Wick. 

On Friday 17 December, the S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys project from artist Kay Rufai will display all 17 portraits of participants who took part in his well-being project dedicated to young Black boys in Hackney. The colourful, smiling portraits have lit up the borough since going up on display in public locations bringing a sense of cheer to the wintery streets. 

The special celebration event, at Hackney Bridge, in East Bay Lane, begins at 5pm and will be an opportunity for people to find out more about the project, hear from the boys and the artist, and enjoy the images together. 

On Saturday 18 December families are invited to ‘make and take’ workshops to create Christmas decorations, inspired by Hackney carnival art installations also on display at Hackney Bridge. 

The installations were created over the summer with various schools and community groups in Hackney, inspired by the music, performances, stories and costumes of some of Hackney’s carnival collectives as part of Hackney Carnival at Home 2021. 

From 12pm Hackney Carnival’s musical veterans Steel Pantonic will play steel pan classics and recorded interviews with Hackney’s carnival artists will be screened.

Both events will bring Hackney’s Black History in the Making season to a close, which saw history being made with the unveiling of Veronica Ryan OBE’s artworks, the first public sculptures to honour the Windrush Generation, the opening of Brafa Square in Shoreditch Park, and the launch of Hackney Museum’s major new exhibition ‘Being African in Hackney’ which is on until January.

Both S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys and the Hackney Carnival exhibitions will be on display at Hackney Bridge until 31 January and are free and open to all. 

Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources
Hackney's Black history season has given us the opportunity to not only reconnect with our past but also to build new legacies that will be remembered nationally for years to come. 

From the welcoming of Veronica Ryan's unique Windrush artworks, the exploration into the legacy of our African communities thanks to our Museum, to providing positive representation for our young Black boys with the S.M.I.L.E exhibition, we have shone an illuminating light on many of our Black communities and the contributions they brought, and continue to bring, to Hackney. 

Once again Hackney Council has proved the significance of Black history in the life of the borough. By giving it more time and focus, we continue to reveal the dynamic contributions of our Black communities.
Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources

Notes for editors 

Dates and times: 

  • Friday 17 December, 5 - 6PM: S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys event: 
  • Saturday 18 December 10.30am-12.30pm and 1.30-3.30pm drop in ‘Make and Take’ Hackney Carnival arts workshops; steel pan performance from 12-1.30pm

Address: Hackney Bridge, Units 1-28, ECHO BUILDING, London E15 2SJ

Please be advised that facemasks should be worn, hand sanitiser will be provided and visitors are encouraged to take a lateral flow test before entering the premises. 

Hackney Carnival at Home 2021 artworks were produced by Deb Mullins, and delivered by a team of artists including Lucky Thomas, Ruth Collins, Di Jones, Caroline Jones, Valerio de O’liveiro and lead artist Jamshid Maylanchi. 

Both events are free and open to all. Food and drink vendors will be open to purchase refreshments. 

To revisit videos or images from past event as part of Hackney Black History in the Making season visit www.lovehackney.uk/black-history-season 

To find out more about S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys visit https://www.lovehackney.uk/smile 

S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys portraits were on public display thanks to Build Hollywood.