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I stood with my partner in the Tate Modern three weeks before the virus hit. There we saw Steve McQueen’s Ashes.

This is a film with two parts. The first is what you see here: a young Black man smiling with the sun on his back, playing in the wind and falling into the water. It is one of the most beautiful shorts I've ever seen. The second takes place years later, when McQueen returned to Grenada and discovered that the boy, named Ashes, had been shot dead by drug dealers — and so he filmed grave-makers sculpting the boy’s tomb. They play these films back to back, one on either side of a dark room. Ashes is a commentary on the transience of youth, and of life, but it is also a statement on the violent, unjust deaths of young Black males. Ashes is a symbol of redemption, of poetic justice.

*Note: Ashes fell off my wall on the morning of May 25th, 2020. The noise scared me shitless. I tried to put the poster back, but it kept falling down. I asked my partner why this had happened. I needed more Blu Tack. But it felt more ominous than that. Why today? Why did Ashes pick May 25th to fall?

Days later, I made the connection. Ashes had fallen in solidarity.


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