Southwark Council has said the iconic portraits of black cultural icons recently removed from Peckham Hill Street will be given a new home “as soon as we can”.
Officers from the council’s arts team were yesterday due to meet with photographer Franklyn Rodgers, who originally took 30 portraits for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.
Among the famous faces removed on March 12 were David Oyelowo MBE; Marsha Thomason; Wunmi Mosaku; Fraser James; Adjoa Andoh; Idris Elba OBE; Don Warrington, and Rudolph Walker OBE.
The sudden removal of the portraits was met with anger and concern by many.
Locals were first told one of the portraits was moved due to weather damage. The council then said they were moved “for safekeeping” while work begins to build the new Mountview Academy theatre school.
The council still has yet to confirm exactly when or where the portraits will be relocated in Peckham. But the authority told the News it “will be making an announcement about these plans as soon as we can”.
Councillor Johnson Situ, cabinet member for business, culture and social regeneration, said: “In the meantime I can assure residents that the boards are being taken care of and assessed in safe storage and we have every intention of getting them back out on display as soon as possible.
“We appreciate the offers we have had from organisations wanting to display the boards and we are taking them into consideration as we work out the best way to get these beautiful portraits back up and inspiring a new generation of people to take advantage of the arts and culture opportunities that are coming to Peckham in the future.”
A council spokesman added that £15,000 had been committed in January, to be spent on “refreshing” the portraits.
Abubakar Kamara, manager of B@kus Business Service shop opposite where the portraits stood, called them “a symbol of our community”.
“The pictures used to make the youth stop and wonder who those people in the pictures were,” the 56-year-old said.
“They are people who have given a lot, and who have got on with their lives in black society. We should be showcasing them for the young people, to inspire them.
“Our culture in this community is a disaster with the youth. People kill and commit knife and gun crime. Pictures like these can inspire them to change. It’s about motivation and cohesion.”
The day after the portraits were removed, the News spoke to Abubakar’s son, Ibrahim, who said he was used to seeing them every time he visited his Dad’s shop.
“I don’t understand why they hadn’t already found a place to put them before they were moved. Why wasn’t there already a plan?” The 23-year-old said.
“And I’m not sure there’s many other places in Peckham where they will get as much attention and be seen by as many people.”