Khadija Saye, Gambian-Britisher And A Photographer Par Excellence


Khadija Mohammadou Saye, also known as Ya-Haddy Sisi Saye, was a Gambian-British photographer. Her photography explored her Gambian-British identity. Both Saye and her mother died in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June 2017, where a 24-year-old Saye and 71 other victims lost their lives in the blaze.

Grenfell Artist Khadija Saye

In 2017, the Biennale hosted its first Diaspora Pavilion, which was curated by David A Bailey and exhibited work by a group of artists from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Saye presented a series of self-portraits created using the 19th-century technique ‘wet plate collodion tintype’, an intricate process, which explored her Gambian identity. She described the powerful portraits as exploring “the migration of the traditional Gambian spiritual practices”. On account of her sad demise, Tate Britain had announced that it would exhibit a silkscreen of one of the pieces from the Dwellings series, Sothiou in the memorials section.

Grenfell Artist Khadija Saye

A new public art exhibition in London is remembering the work of the Grenfell artist. Works by the artist have been installed in Notting Hill, as part of a new public art project entitled Breath is Invisible, founded by Eiesha Bharti Pasricha and curated by Sigrid Kirk. The works appear on the outside of 236 Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, near the site of the fire-gutted tower block where the incident took place.

“Taking inspiration from the development of portraiture in the 15th century, I wanted to investigate how a portrait could function as a way of announcing one’s piety, virtue, soul, and prosperity. The series was created from a personal need for spiritual grounding after experiencing trauma,” Saye wrote about the Dwelling before her tragic death. “The search for what gives meaning to our lives and what we hold onto in times of despair and life changing challenges. Using myself as the subject, I felt it necessary to physically explore how trauma is embodied in the black experience. Whilst exploring the notions of spirituality and rituals, the process of image-making became a ritual in itself.”


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