The artist and photographer Khadija Saye has been confirmed as one of the 17 reported fatalities in the Grenfell Tower fire.

Saye, who lived on the 20th floor of the block, is one of the artists featured in the Diaspora Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. Her work, Dwelling: in this space we breathe, is a series of tintype photographs exploring the migration of traditional Gambian spiritual practices.

Along with many other friends and colleagues, the Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy – who described the 24-year-old artist as “a dear friend” – had been appealing for news about Saye.

On Twitter, Lammy, whose wife Nicola Green was a mentor for Saye, said: “May you rest in peace Khadija Saye. God bless your beautiful soul. My heart breaks today. I mourn the tragic loss of a wonderful young woman.”


Writing in the Guardian on Thursday, Lammy said: ‘Where is Khadija Saye? A beautiful young woman, a hugely talented emerging artist whom my wife mentored and who had become a part of my family.

‘She is just one of many human stories emerging from the disaster wreaked on Grenfell Tower. I have heard nothing since her Facebook post from 4am on Wednesday reading: “Please pray for me and my mum. Just tried to leave, it’s impossible.” I fear she may have perished in the inferno on the 20th floor.’

Describing Saye’s work, The International Curators Forum – co-presenters of the Diaspora Pavilion with the University of the Arts London – wrote that her practice was “an ongoing exploration of identity and how we utilise our unique perspectives to create change within our communities and further afield. This conflicting and corresponding nature of life has been vital to the way she engages with photography, questioning the hybrid embrace of history, culture and spirituality.”

The art critic Waldemar Januszczak reviewed Saye’s work as part of a Sunday Times article on the Diaspora Pavilion at the Biennale. He praised the “gorgeous wet collodion tintypes that heap poetry and sadness onto her imagery”. He has since tweeted that her work “stood out across the entire Venice Biennale”.

Born and raised in London, Saye came from a mixed faith and multicultural background which profoundly influenced her artwork.

Her photography-based practice explored political and social issues as well as concepts of race, gender and cultural aesthetics. In 2013 she completed a BA in Photography at University for the Creative Arts, Farnham.

Monstrous crime

Lammy has described the fire at the Kensington tower block as “a monstrous crime” and “corporate manslaughter”. Concerned residents had repeatedly raised safety concerns about the flats.

A recent post on the Grenfell Action Group blog states: ‘All our warnings fell on deaf ears’. It lists 10 previous posts going back to 2013 that raise a number of safety and fire-related concerns.

Grenfell Tower is managed by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which owns the building.

The prime minister Theresa May has ordered a full public inquiry into the fire, with the number of fatalities expected to rise significantly. Scotland Yard has opened a criminal investigation into the fire.

A website has been set up to share information about how to help those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire: grenfellsupport.wordpress.com

UPDATE: The police have since confirmed that there have been at least 30 deaths with more fatalities expected.

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