A Service of Lament and Thanksgiving in the shadow of Grenfell Tower

Remembering Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy (Photo: Scott Takenaka)

Remembering Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy (Photo: Scott Takenaka)

Family, friends and fellow artists filled St Mary’s Church in London’s North Kensington yesterday (27 July) afternoon to commemorate and celebrate the young artist Khadija Saye and her mother Mary Mendy, as well as Berkti Haftom, her twelve-year-old son Beruk and five year old Isaac Paulos who, along with numerous others, perished in the Grenfell Tower fire on 14 June.
Just a few weeks before her death, Khadija’s tintype photographs had been unveiled to great acclaim at the Diaspora Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, and many of her fellow Venice participants attended yesterday’s service, including Hew Locke, Peter Lewis, Abbas Zahedi and the pavilion’s co-curator David A Bailey. There were also tributes from representatives of PEER, the non-profit gallery in Hoxton where Khadija worked as an intern and which recently dedicated a public garden to her memory.
Conducting the service was a formidable line-up of clerics with Steve Divall, the Vicar of St Helen’s and officiating reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin joined by the Bishop of Kensington. Pastor James Kwaku Agyeman-Duah led a spine-tingling rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Water by the Gospel for Grenfell Choir, which has become an anthem for the victims of the fire and the surrounding community. There were also contributions from the reverend Femi Cole-Njie on behalf of the Gambian Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Fr Georges Dimtsu of St Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Church, amongst others.
The sermon was given by John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, who amidst vigorous applause from the congregation, demanded that “During the inquest and investigation [into the Grenfell Tower fire] no stone should be left unturned…every grain of sand must be turned in order to discover the truth, because the truth sets us all free.” He also called on the community to turn its anger into a creative force to be reckoned with and declared that there can be no reconciliation without truth and justice. The archbishop then ended his sermon by performing a traditional lament on African drums. Let’s hope their sound and his call for truth and justice will reverberate throughout our local and national governments. 

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