A Bridge + Tunnel Production
Last of the Dictionary Men:
Stories from the South Shields Yemeni Sailors
Wednesday 2 April = Monday 5 May 2008
Over the course of more than 100 years, thousands of seamen from Yemen settled in the small town of South Shields to work in the established maritime industry based on the rivers Tyne and Wear in the North East of England. Bridge + Tunnel Productions, over three years, worked with this community to create Last of the Dictionary Men, an exceptional multi-disciplined exhibition which highlights the complexities of Modern British identity. The exhibition will be on show at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art from Wednesday 2 April until Monday 5 May 2008.
Last of the Dictionary Men is a captivating exhibition documenting the lives and memories of a vital but little-known part of British immigrant history, the establishment of the UK’s oldest Muslim and Arab Community in South Shields, Tyne & Wear. Importantly this exhibition does not only bring attention to this particular small community, but it also offers new forms of representation; new ways of seeing, hearing and understanding the complexity of Muslim identities within Britain today.
The combination of large-scale oral history, photographic and film installations by artists Tina Gharavi and Youssef Nabil deliver charismatic insight into this small yet significant community. Today only 13 men from the first generation survive and their stories are told through this collection of works. Over the course of three years Bridge & Tunnel Productions collaborated with the seamen, to record their endangered stories and experiences and represent them in a new and challenging content. From the accounts of 800 Yemeni men from Tyneside who died at sea in World War II, to the misinterpretations of the Trade Union riots at the Customs House in the 1930s to the long forgotten wedding of Muhammad Ali in 1977 – Last of the Dictionary Men is an inspiring and unheard story of vital importance.
Tina Gharavi’s 14 oral history films are presented on individual television screens. Positioned at the real life height of each of the Yemeni men, they frankly narrate the stories of their lives, marriages and the living history of the subsequent four generations. Intricately hand-painted portraits by internationally renowned photographer, Youssef Nabil hang above only 13 of the 14 TV monitors, following the death of one of the gentlemen during the creative process.
The exhibition will be accompanied by The King of South Shields, a documentary on boxer Muhammad Ali’s extraordinary wedding in the South Shield mosque, directed by Tina Gharavi, Bridge & Tunnel Productions on show in the Level 1 cinema space.
For further information please contact:
Ann Cooper BALTIC Media Officer T: 0191 440 4915 E: firstname.lastname@example.org