The work responded to the death of David Oluwale, a British-Nigerian who drowned in the River Aire on 18 April 1969 after being systematically harassed by members of the Leeds City Police force. Araeen was shocked and deeply moved after reading about Oluwale’s death in 1971, and decided to make a work dedicated to his story, marking a politicised shift in Araeen’s practice, who previously was creating predominantly abstract artworks.
For Oluwale comprised six photographic panels that document a previous version of the work. It included two additional panels that provided further information about Oluwale alongside a letter of complaint from someone who protested against the display of the original version of the work in 1973.
Araeen’s work was contextualised by a collection of press clippings, a scrapbook owned by the whistleblower police cadet Gary Galvin, and excerpts from plays and poetry relating to the death of David Oluwale made in the intervening years.
The exhibition was organised in partnership with the charity Remember Oluwale, who hosted a series of events throughout April 2019 to mark the 50th anniversary of his death.