Off The Fence Artists: Habiba Nabisubi

This year’s Brockwell Live festival season celebrates 50 years of the Lambeth Country Show with a spectacular collaboration between artists and local community. The perimeter fence of the month-long festival site will be transformed into a large-scale installation honouring Lambeth’s history of radical celebration. 

In collaboration with Brockwell Live, The Brixton Project has commissioned five artists, through a widespread open call, to design artwork for the fence based on community ideas and memories of celebration. 

Selected artists misha B, Lorna Jean-Charles, Akmaral Khassen, William Lindley, Habiba Nabisubi and Kes Young, were invited to run creative workshops with local residents of all ages as part of the Brixton Project’s innovative Community Research Exchange. The workshops set out to gather the disparate voices of Lambeth’s local residents to share personal and collective narratives through dynamic, creative means.
Informed by the stories and visual representations gathered in these community workshops, the artists’ designs make up an immersive installation of joyous expression, that captures the vibrant spirit of Lambeth’s local community.

We caught up with the artists to learn more about them, their process and the Off The Fence project.

Habiba: “During these dark times of global devastation, division and deportation it’s important to remember that we are all still connected. We need each other. Lambeth wouldn’t be the same without the people, the people make the borough (in my opinion). This artwork is a snapshot of that community and those brilliant people, each and every one deserving celebration. Thank you to those who shared a story or sent a photo to help me make this artwork happen. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

What inspired you to get involved with the Off The Fence project?

“It has always brought me joy to give back to my community with/through my art, to use my artistry to raise awareness and offer the viewer a moment of reflection. My family home has been in Lambeth for over 10 years now and I absolutely love that fact. I may not be born and bred South London but I am fiercely proud to be a Lambeth resident. So when I saw the artist call out for this project I thought, what a beautiful way to bring people together and celebrate them, the people. The community – my community! I’m all about that.”

Since its inception, The Brockwell Fence has been a polarising point of debate and discussion amongst the Lambeth community. What do you hope your artwork and this project can contribute to the discussion?

Artists generally have a responsibility to push the dial, start conversations and get people thinking/feeling. To me that’s what art is. As an artist working on this project I have simply been a vehicle/vessel for the design and facilitation of getting the artwork up and out for the people to see. Something I could not have done without the input of the community. It has been humbling to feel like this work is (quite literally) much bigger than me; because it belongs to the people whom it is to, for and of. 

Something that I personally love about street art is that it is in the public domain, meaning it is accessible to absolutely everyone and becomes public property by default. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, as long as you are walking down that particular street you are going to see/engage with the work and it will leave some kind of impact on you and your day. What an opportunity that is! I have no doubt that my artwork will be received in a multitude of ways and will spark conversations. My only hopes are that it lifts spirits, sparks creativity and fosters connection. 

I also really just wanted each person featured in my piece to have a moment to feel special, seen and celebrated. This artwork is essentially my love letter to Lambeth and its people – I hope I made them proud.

How did working at the CRX inform your process? Were there any unexpected or interesting outcomes of working in the community?

“Hearing the outpourings of love, strength, pride and solidarity from members of the community was truly wholesome and inspiring. The whole day left me feeling extremely proud to be an artist working on this project. It was so fundamentally important to have the community’s input – for all the reasons I mentioned above.”

Habiba Nabisubi

Habiba Nabisubi is a British-Ugandan multimedia artist, educator, mental health advocate and illustrator based in South London. She is a highly detailed visual storyteller and worldbuilder, with authentic representation being at the core of her practice. Habiba views all of her artworks as an opportunity for others to learn, grow and reflect. Having graduated from Camberwell College of the Arts in 2016 with a BA(Hons) Illustration degree; she then went on to participate in Arts Council funded Pathways Into (Children’s Publishing) 2019-2021. She has worked with BBC, Angelo Seminara, Merky Books, The National Portrait Gallery, Peckham Levels and The Horniman Museum & Gardens, amongst others.