The Agency: Africa updates

This week, the Agents go on a day of culture around London. Assistant Facilitator Africa fills us in on what they got up to.


For this session of The Agency we had an amazing mix of art, history and science as we took a day trip visiting exhibitions around London. Our first stop was the Wellcome Trust’s Bedlam exhibition in Euston which follows the history of mental asylums.

We chose this exhibition in particular to show the Agents how a heavy topic such as the history of mental health could be used to create an informative space for change using a collection of art, science and information.

As we began the exhibition, the first room began with old historical material from the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Bromley. As we entered, I saw that the first table displayed poems, drawings and other forms of art that the patients had created to express their feelings and describe their surroundings. On the walls surrounding the table were collections of blue prints of the asylum accompanied by paragraphs detailing the history of it.


As you went around into the next room there were a variety of intriguing artistic video projections and audio clips about mental illness. Some highlighted the controversies surrounding mental institutions and of the inhumane methods used to ‘cure’ patients and the mental and emotional side effects of prescription drugs.

We eventually made our way up to the second floor, which focused mainly on the science behind mental and physical health. This was probably my favorite part of the exhibition, as it had a few innovative and unusual interactive pieces of art, like a censored bronze sculpture that unexpectedly opens an eye as you approach it. I’ll sheepishly add it may have caught Leon and me off guard.

In the final room was a grand library containing traditional paintings and sculptures reflecting mental health through time, capturing different moments in history in which brutish techniques were used to deal with it.

The next stop in our cultured adventure was to the South Bank Centre to visit the ‘We are all human’ exhibition which is diplaying pieces of art produced in UK prisons, secure hospitals and immigration removal centers.

Our tour guide David told us some amazing back-stories of how each piece came to be created, sharing with us his own experiences of being in prison; he added a very personal touch to his descriptions, which helped us understand the meaning behind each piece.


Our adventure came to an end at the Tate Modern where we explored its vast collection of art, after laying down in massive turbine hall exhibition. It brought a good conclusion to a cultured day as the Agents got to see another building that collects different work, from different sources to bring it all together and create a useful and educational space.


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