Communitea: CSM alumni working to save the London Chinese Community Centre... with tea
Ten Central Saint Martins, UAL graduates have come together to create the Communitea Shop; an online art platform in collaboration with Roomfifty to raise money to save the London Chinese Community Centre (LCCC).
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected thousands of organisations and coupled with the frightening spike in anti-East and Southeast Asian hate, it means the LCCC, the first of its kind in London, is currently facing permanent closure.
And what better way to do highlight the cause than over a cup of tea? As an ancient Chinese ritual of welcome, it’s also beloved in the UK, and can be the catalyst to many conversations. For the team behind the Communitea Shop, “it’s not about spilling the tea on other races. But bringing people together in widespread healthy discourse about Asian culture and its importance in all our lives.”
The campaign launched on 6 May 2021, and the hope is that the online shop will help people appreciate the importance of Asian culture. Communitea features works by a diverse roster of over 50 artists, including around 20 UAL alumni.
One of the team members, Conrad Haddaway explains; “A lot of people see tea as a British thing when in reality it’s about as Chinese as it gets. It’s a ritual of welcome and unitea (sorry) that we felt was a great tool for connecting people around the world. It’s been working well enough since 200BC!”
How Communitea came about
In 2020, Kenn Lam witnessed an increase in anti-Asian hate; he says that it “left me worried that this short-sighted and misdirected rage would have lasting effects on the East and South-East Asian community (ESEA) community.”
Kenn, who is ethnically Chinese, spent the first few months of the pandemic speaking with East-Asian friends in the US and UK about what was happening. But as he was back in Singapore, he didn’t feel he was able to fight or grieve what was happening, as he hadn’t personally experienced it; “it felt disingenuous and performative to show passion for an issue that didn't affect me directly.”
That all changed in February 2021, when the issue of anti-Asian hate was finally covered in the mainstream news; the outcry he witnessed from the ESEA community moved him to create an artwork in solidarity with their cause. The piece, titled ‘Strength and Resilience’, led to meaningful conversations where Kenn realised that meaningful change couldn't come from the ESEA community alone. He says, “I quickly realised how absurd it was to believe that the onus for change lies solely in the hands of those suffering from the status quo, that my inhibitions and whatever rationalisations I'd concoct only served to impede me from actually helping the community.”
So Kenn reached out to his circle of creative friends in London, to see what “we, as (mostly) outsiders, could do for the community.”
Who are the Communiteam?
The brief was simple; to draw upon one's ties to Chinese/ESEA culture; pushing the point that anyone can have a connection with these cultures and that consequently, if an ESEA person is hurting, we all hurt.
Including Kenn, the team behind the Communitea Shop all graduated together from BA (Hons) Graphic Design at CSM in 2018:
A lot of the work on sale is also created by UAL alumni including:
- Alva Skog (BA (Hons) Graphic Design, CSM, 2018)
- Debbie Poon (BA (Hons) Graphic & Media Design, London College of Communication, 2010)
- Jimmy Turrell (MA Communication Design, CSM, 2006)
- Kyle Platts (BA (Hons) Illustration, Camberwell, 2011)
- Melissa Kitty Jarram (Foundation Art & Design, Camberwell, 2010)
In addition to over 50 beautiful prints, the shop is selling a single symbolic ‘Communitea Bag’ for £45,000, which is enough to reach the LCCC’s JustGiving fundraiser goal and see them through the rest of 2021.
The Communiteam sums up the project perfectly; start talking and of course, enjoy some really kickass art.
Find out more about the project, and treat yourself to some new artwork, all whilst supporting the LCCC:
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