The S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys Project
The S.M.I.L.E-ing Boys Project, created by artist Kay Rufai, is now on display at Battersea Power Station. This project was created as a direct response to the rise in violence affecting young people which sparked a series of reactionary approaches from government regarding tougher criminalisation of youth, more stop and searches and greater police presence in global majority communities. These approaches inspired Kay Rufai to explore the often-neglected public health approach, which required investigating the mental health provisions or lack thereof, for the demographic in question - overwhelmingly black youth.
Following many research trips some of the happiest countries in the world, Rufai uncovered eight main factors responsible for the high happiness rates in these countries. These factors were then used to design a series of photography, poetry and discussion-based art workshops with 13–15-year-old black boys delivered by Rufai himself, the lead artist on the project.
The project took place in three separate Wandsworth schools, with 60 black boys from St John Bosco, Ark Putney and Ark Bollingbroke. The best evidence of the impact on the young people is to hear it from them directly, for example Bilal said "I've got to be proud of who I am, I feel confident now knowing I don't have to change for people, you know how people set expectations, and they judge me because of my colour, this project made me feel like I've just got to be who I am, you know and be myself.”
With community is at the heart of everything we do, we’re privileged to have these plinths on display. It’s also great that the young people who participated in the project can easily visit and have a sense of belonging.
The exhibition is free to the public and on display on Arches Lane in Circus West Village from now until 31st March.