In 2021, Culture& sent 40 dementia-care packages to care homes and sheltered accommodation across London for the festive period.
Especially designed for African Caribbean elders, these interactive ‘Sensory Boxes’ celebrate the Black cultural experience in London, and address the lack of culturally-specific dementia-care provision for minoritized and diasporic communities.
What’s inside the Memory Archives: Sensory Boxes?
Yonka Bia by Larry Amponsah
Yonka Bia is a bespoke board game by contemporary artist, Larry Amponsah. Often working with collage, Amponsah draws inspiration from archival images and his Ghanaian heritage to explore international Black narratives.
Yonka Bia is inspired by the game, Ludo, a variant of the ancient Indian game of Pachisi, which is very popular in African and Caribbean regions. The phrase “Yonka Bia” means “a place of friendship” in Asante Twi – a dialect of the Akan people originating from ancient Ghana.
Raffia Embroidery by Ezinma Mbeledogu
Fashion Anthropologist, Ezinma Mbeledogu has created a series of tactile raffia pieces, exploring the colours and textures of the Caribbean. These are inspired by the traditional craft, often found on ‘island souvenirs’ such as straw hats, fans and bags.
Mbeledogu’s practice involves developing tactile interventions for the care home environment, in order to support well-being and increase understanding of the impact of person-centred care.
Kente Print Lining
Kente is a traditional Ghanaian textile, handwoven from cotton and silk and normally worn on special occasions. The Memory Archives box lining is made from printed fabric inspired by Kente patterns.
The game of Dominoes is played enthusiastically across the Caribbean, with different islands adding their own variations. It is often a loud and lively social event with pieces slammed down to cheers and celebrating. Like other games, it can help bring people together and improve sharpness.
Sensory Objects: Spices and Christmas Crackers
Caribbean delicacies such as the Blue Draws cake and Sorrel drink are traditionally enjoyed at Christmas time. Sorrel is made from the hibiscus plant, giving it its bright red colour, and spices are used to enhance the flavour. It is served cold and sweetened with sugar – sometimes with a dash of Caribbean white rum.
Sensory Objects: Cocoa Butter and Afro Comb
Accompanied by audio track: Reminiscence Session led by artist Michael McMillan at the Memory Archives event, London Metropolitan Archives, 2019. In this excerpt, Michael facilitates a group of African Caribbean elders remembering how they used to dress, wear their hair and which products and accessories they would wear when going out dancing.
Memory Archives Resource Booklet
The Memory Archives booklet contains artworks, photographs, stories and interpretation to be explored alongside the Sensory Box items. Highlights include:
Witchdoctor and Untitled (both 1983) by Grenada-born artist, Denzil Forrester, whose dynamic works immortalise London’s dub and reggae nightclub scene in the early 80s. (Courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery, Arts Council Collection and Royal College of Art Collection).
Tower Bridge (1969) by Nigerian artist, Uzo Egonu, whose work unique style draws on both European and West African art traditions. (Courtesy of the artist’s estate and Guildhall Art Gallery).
Top Shelf (2018) by Ghanaian-Russian photographer, Liz Johnson Artur, who describes the work as an archive of everyday Black life. (Courtesy of the artist and Guildhall Art Gallery).
A series of archive photographs from London in the 1950s-80s. (Courtesy of the London Picture Archive/ London Metropolitan Archives).
The booklet also includes a QR code to access further online resources.
Mini Speaker and Memory Archives Playlist
This curated audio playlist is designed to be enjoyed alongside the Memory Archives booklet and box items. Highlights include:
Lash Dem Lara! by Alexander D. Great
Alexander D. Great was born in Trinidad and raised in West London. He describes his music as Soca Blues or ‘Modern Calypso’, which often contains satire and social commentary. This track is about the West Indies cricket legend, Brian Lara, who was from Trinidad.
Kaikara Dreaming by Keith Waithe
Keith Waithe is an award-winning Guyanese flautist and composer. He produces and promotes an international musical style, exploring an original fusion of jazz, classical, African, Caribbean, Asian and Western influences.
A series of sound archive excerpts from the London Metropolitan Archives, including interviews, poems, songs and musical performances.
We are grateful to the City of London Central Grants Programme, ‘Inspiring London through Culture’ for their generous support of this programme.