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Commission Number 1 responding to 40 years since the bombing of 28 Penton Street by the apartheid regime:

Penificent: “The Bombing of Penton Street”


This first commission by Penificent,  a collective of graphic designers and illustrators, was a commemorative artwork  marking the 40th anniversary of the bombing of 28 Penton Street by South African Apartheid-regime operatives in March 1982. At the time, the building was the London Headquarters of the African National Congress in exile. Today it is being redeveloped by The Liliesleaf Trust UK into the Anti-Apartheid Legacy: Centre of Memory and Learning.

Penificent  worked with a group of young people at Upward Bound, an attainment and aspiration boosting Saturday school co-run by Islington Council and London Metropolitan University, to co-create a comic strip that tells the story of the bombing of 28 Penton Street on 14 March 1982 and its aftermath.

Designed from the perspective of the students, the comic strip placed emphasis on the social and emotional effects of such an incident on a variety of characters involved in the story.  The themes engaged during the workshops raised much discussion around historical contexts for contemporary issues of institutional and systemic corruption and racism and the workshops offered a space to engage creatively with societal issues that the students identified as important to them and their wider communities.


The Process

Three co-creation workshops were held with Upward Bound to connect past struggle against apartheid in South Africa with the history; most of the young people were unaware of what had happened during apartheid, the effects of apartheid on the people of South Africa and the depth  anti-apartheid activity of their locality in Islington. The first session explored this heritage using archival materials and this generated discussions around ongoing societal issues of injustice affecting their local and wider communities.

Using anti-apartheid heritage they investigated and critique not only the historical context of apartheid (imperialism, colonialism, racism) but contemporary resonancs of structural and institutional racism, climate injustice  offers a contemporary lens through which to activate and empower the young people to imagine and create an egalitarian, inclusive and equitable world order.

Inspired by the banners and badges of the anti-aparthied movement, the young people created their own to forefront issues around climate injustice, rights abuses and injustice faced by Palestinian peoples and mental health and wellbeing.

Enhancing Skills

During the next two artist-led workshops, Penficent explored comic creation with the young people and they learned about scripting, character design, story correction and storyboarding.

More Detail on 28 Penton Street

They also learnt, in more detail, about the 1982 bombing of Penton Street, which informed the characterisation of their work as well as their storyboarding.

“They collectively designed a first draft comic strip. Shown here are the images created by the students on which the front and back cover scenes were based.”

“The students’ designs were then resketched and inked by Penificent to create a digital comic strip based on the students' work during the workshop.”

“We are grateful to the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust and Arts Council England for supporting this commission and to the London Borough of Islington’s Local Initiatives Fund for supporting the co-creation workshops.”

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