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  • Lamesha Ruddock

YHP Unveils Mural at Royal United Hospital, Bath

On Wednesday 17th November, the Young Historians Project unveiled the first mural of our project, 'A Hidden History: African women in the British health service', at Royal United Hospital Bath. When this project began in 2018, we searched for an impactful, educative, and creative way of presenting this history. This led us to plan a series of commemorative murals centred around portraits of under-appreciated historic women. YHP worked with Heritage Interpreter and Bristol–based artist, Michele Curtis, who painted the mural with assistance from consultant artist Nadia Lloyd. Curtis has produced numerous public art projects, such as the Seven Saints of St. Pauls mural series and the Iconic Black Britons initiative – both developed to celebrate Black British history through art.

(From left to right) Princess Tsehai Selassie, Bijou Bidwell, Hannah Mahoney, and Olugbemisola Kolade.

We were incredibly lucky to have commissioned Michele for the mural, who has been amazing and resilient during the production process. She excellently portrayed the creative vision of our team of young historians. Michele said about the project:

“It's been an absolute honour to work with the Young Historians Project to create this mural and help their vision materialise. I champion this project and I'm very excited to be a part of its evolution.”

Members of the Young Historians Project alongside hospital staff and artist Nadia Lloyd

The mural features four historic African women healthcare workers who have ties to the south west region of England. Princess Tsehai Selassie (1919–1942), daughter of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, trained to become a children’s nurse during the family's exile in Bath during the 1930s. Bijou Bidwell (1927–2014) was a nurse and midwife who trained at Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) and was known for her campaign against female genital mutilation. Hannah Jawara, née Mahoney (1924–1981), also studied at BRI and became a state–registered nurse and feminist playwright, who fought for equal access to education for girls. Providing a link between past and present in this mural, the final woman commemorated in the mural is Olugbemisola Kolade, who works at hospital as a Transformation Support Officer.

We chose to portray both 20th century and contemporary women in this mural to highlight the long historical presence of African women who have worked within Britain’s healthcare service. We hope to highlight the incredible contributions of these women as well as the efforts of the Young Historians Project in undertaking this project. We encourage you to visit the mural at Royal United Hospital Bath, and take in this beautiful art piece and important history in person.

Artist Nadia Lloyd cutting the ribbon to unveil the mural


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