Windrush Bus – Q&A with artist Baraka Carberry 

Baraka Carberry standing in front of the commemorating Windrush Bus featuring her design

Notting Hill Carnival’s 2023 theme commemorated the 75th anniversary of the arrival of passengers on the SS Empire Windrush. We’re celebrating the culture and contributions of the Windrush generation with a special commemorative bus wrap. 🚌 🤩   

The vibrantly designed bus by artist Baraka Carberry was a part of TfL’s parade at Notting Hill Carnival 2023. In this blog, we take a closer look at the design, in an interview with the artist.  

What is the Windrush? 

Following the Second World War, the UK was in urgent need of repair. HMT Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks in Essex, carrying people from the Caribbean. This was one of the first groups of post-war settlers who came to start new lives, with other people from parts of the Commonwealth. 

The Windrush generation laid the foundations for Black British society as we know it today.  Many people in Caribbean and Commonwealth communities found jobs in the London transport system. Read the story of two generations of one family who worked at TfL.  

Celebrating the Windrush at Notting Hill Carnival 

The annual Notting Hill Carnival takes place in August each year on the streets of west London. The carnival celebrates the city’s diverse Caribbean community. The bus made its debut at carnival, carrying a mix of Windrush elders; some who previously worked on the London Transport network, and current TfL colleagues. This was in recognition and celebration of their contributions to transport in the city. 

The wrap visually entwines the culture, community and colours of Notting Hill Carnival and the 75-year history of Windrush, in a vibrant, richly layered design. It features three characters – an elder and two younger descendants. A collage of photographs from the London Transport Museum collections forms the fabric of the characters’ clothing. The fabric features people, places and symbols that have shaped the Windrush legacy, along with memories from the carnival in years gone by.

Commemorating Windrush Bus - the green side of the design featuring the artwork of Baraka Carberry

The bus is one of more than 1,100 zero-emission models on London’s roads. Following the carnival, the wrapped bus will be in service throughout Black History Month in October. 

“We recognise that Windrush is about people, their lives and their stories. Each person coming from the rich tapestry of nations that make up the Windrush Generation have their own individual story, each being as immersive and as interesting as the other.

Despite the challenges experienced, some common themes arise from these stories, such as a determined steeliness of character; a love of one’s heritage and culture; a tenacity to work and to prosper and to redeem and maintain inner strength and respect of oneself and one’s people. 

All these themes are reflected in the beautiful bus wrap.”

Deborah Klass, CEO of The Windrush Generation Legacy Association 

Q&A with the artist, Baraka Carberry 

Baraka Carberry standing in front of the commemorating Windrush Bus featuring her design

Welcome Baraka! Please tell us about your artistic practice. 

I’m a digital artist who likes to celebrate my heritage. I like to create work for people and people of Caribbean heritage, and I like to celebrate that. And I hope that this commemorative piece for 75 years of Windrush does that. 

What is your connection to Windrush? 

I’m of Guyanese heritage. My grandparents on my father’s side came over during Windrush. I wanted to tell the story: the struggle, the many doors that they opened, that we’re here today and there are still more doors to open. I wanted to inspire the future generation to believe that their dreams are possible. And like the Windrush generation, they are inspirations and beacons of hope. 

Talk us through your artistic process. What it was like making this piece? 

You know, at first I was scared! I was like; how do I tell this story in a way that resonates with people, creates conversation and brings back memories, and celebrates everything? So that was the starting point when it came to creating this artwork. We wanted the viewer to be taken on a journey through time into the present and then into the future. 

How do you come up with your ideas in the background of your work? 

From everything really. From my family; from current events, fashion or music, my heritage and culture… I don’t have one source of inspiration I take. I tend to take inspiration from everything.  

What Windrush stories are you telling through the collage on the clothing? 

On the clothes I felt it very was very important to represent West Caribbean soldiers that would have fought in the Second World War. A lot of them came over during Windrush to help rebuild England after the effects of the war. So I felt that was one of the very important features and to represent the workers, the front rooms and just life in general. 

The meaning was that it was something that we wear every day. It’s part of a history. It’s woven into us, part of our DNA. I wanted to implement that by collaging the imagery within the clothing, making it feel like it was within the fabric. 

Can you tell us what colour means to you? 

Colour means everything because we’re always seeing, those of us who can see. I always use vibrant colours, you can never miss a bright colour. I remember when I was studying art, visiting countless galleries and not seeing anyone of colour in the galleries. So I try to use vibrant colours. Even if you didn’t intend to see it, you will see it. It’s in your face, its unapologetic, its there to be seen.  

What is your favourite public transport journey? 

I would say to Brixton because that’s where Windrush Square is, where it all started. And I was also born there! 

What do you hope this piece will inspire in others? 

That their dreams count, especially the young black child. Their dreams matter. That anything is possible. Just dream and be bold. 

Discover more 😄

If you missed the bus at Carnival, it will be going into service until at least the end of October. Keep an eye out for it, and share your pictures with us by tagging the @TransportforLondon social media accounts 🤳

At the London Transport Museum the exhibition  Legacies: London Transport’s Caribbean Workforce, isfree to visit with general admission. 

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