WEAVERS, Peterborough 2019 - 2020
Map Commissioned by Metal Culture UK
In 2019 arts organisation Metal invited Moroccan artist Aicha El Beloui to visit Peterborough and spend time with us, meeting local residents and exploring the city. As an artist and illustrator, Aicha is particularly interested in architecture and maps from the viewpoint of those who actually live, work and play in the place.
Peterborough is a city that has undergone many transformations. Often referred to as a new town, its history stretches back to the Bronze Age. It is now one of the fastest growing cities in the UK and is made up of a series of distinct different townships linked by a network of parkways. It is also an incredibly green city. It is known by many as the place they pass through on the train from London or the place you visit to renew your passport. Everyone's knowledge and visual map of Peterborough will be very different based on where you live, how you travel, who you meet, and what you do. Over several visits in 2019, Aïcha visited secondary schools, and worked with youth groups, gardeners, artists and activists from across Peterborough. She talked to them about 'their' city. She asked them to draw their mental maps of the city and she drew hers. She walked for hours and toured by car - which is when she discovered Peterborough's tangle of park ways! The result is this magnificent map - a brand new art work for the city.
I had the privilege to be guided in Peterborough by its inhabitants through walks, talks, rides, and meetings. I was generously invited into the movements around and within the city. Weavers pictures the diversity of narratives and threads making Peterborough. A place whose history is written in its streets, buildings, and infinite sky; but also carried and shaped by the different people and generations forming its population. Weavers is also an illustration of the emotions and the energies generated by the city: leaving, staying, coming back, cultivating, exploring, and inhabiting the urban change before being part of it. I am very thankful to everyone who offered a little part of their Peterborough wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.
I also want to mention that this work was finished and displayed during Covid-19 first wave. Special thanks to Sarah Haythorthwaite for her motivation and efforts to make this project take place and happen despite the challenging conditions.