A personal reflection on the recent unveiling of YHP’s latest mural at Charing Cross Hospital
When YHP’s latest project, A hidden history African women and the British Health Service, 1930-2000 began, one of our proposed outcomes was to produce murals as a way to immortalise the brilliant women, past and present, we had discovered. Our project aimed to commemorate and shine light on African women who had been active in Britain’s healthcare service, both prior to the NHS’s creation in 1948, and in the decades since. Four years ago, in 2018, while I was working as a radiographer at Charing Cross Hospital, I contacted Lucy Zacaria, the head of Arts at the Imperial Health Charity about YHP and our current project. The response I received was brilliant. From the outset, the charity were enthusiastic about our project and fully on board with having the mural installed at the hospital.
Commissioning a mural was a new endeavour for YHP, but the charity was very helpful navigating this area. From helping to select an appropriate location for the mural, to providing a letter of support to the Heritage Lottery Fund to strengthen our funding application. It was a collaborative effort between Lucy and the charity, Amelia (YHP’s Project Co-ordinator) and myself through the years. The brilliant muralist, Michele Curtis, of Iconic Black Britons & The Seven Saints of St. Pauls project, was commissioned to create the mural. Due to Covid restrictions, only this year (2022) wasshe able to come in and begin work. YHP members were also able to come and add their own touches to the mural during its production.
We also set up a mural planning group, in which YHP members brainstormed the mural’s design with consultation from Michele Curtis. YHP members were active in researching the women who would feature in the mural. We eventually narrowed it down to seven women:
· Hala Abusin (Community pharmacist and founder of Platpharma), Amakhoe Minney (Physiotherapist at Charing Cross)
· Princess Nurse Ademola (Nigerian Princess and midwife in London during WWII)
· Professor Dame Elizabeth Anoinwu (author, retired nurse and sickle cell activist)
· Susan Ofori Atta (fourth West African woman to gain a medical degree and first female doctor in Ghana)
· Olaore Green (midwife during the 1910s, first Black woman to obtain the Apothecaries Cartificate of the Pharmaceutical Society)
· Lulu Coote (one of the first African women to have worked in Britain’s healthcare system)
We had initially planned to install the mural in 2020. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was not possible and on top of that we ran out of funding. Yet, this did not deter YHP or the Imperial Health Charity. They were very much still dedicated to the project and even donated additional funds to get us to the finish line.
I’m sure I speak for everyone involved when I say how proud we are of the work we were able to achieve here. To be able to remember these pioneering women and their legacies, as well as highlighting the continued contributions of African women to the healthcare service. This mural beautifully connects the past to the present, and we look forward to expanding this mural project in other hospital sites.