Gloucestershire Black Lives Matter campaigner unveils sculpture highlighting rural racism

Khady Gueye alongside the new installation at Beechenhurst. Credit: PA images

The organiser of a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Gloucestershire has unveiled a new artwork that highlights her experiences of racism in her Forest of Dean hometown.

Khady Gueye, from Lydney, led the local movement in June 2020 to raise awareness of racial inequality after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a white US police officer.

She overcame several setbacks to hold the peaceful protest, which sparked backlash from members of the community and even forced the resignation of the town's Deputy Mayor.

Since then she has tirelessly campaigned for racial equality in rural Gloucestershire and has established a Local Equality Commission to tackle issues of social injustice and racism.

Now to celebrate 35 years of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, Khady has worked with Bristol poet Zakiya McKenzie to create a piece of work that draws on lived experiences of racial prejudice.

The piece was created with a poem by Bristol artist Zakiya McKenzie. Credit: PA images

Their original poem 'Soil Unsoiled' has been etched onto a wooden sculpture at the Forestry England site in Beechenhurst, Coleford, and aims to create a point of reflection and contemplation for visitors.

Posting on Twitter after the unveiling on Friday (16 July), Khady said: "The most surreal and humbling moment of this journey so far.

"So proud and honoured to see @ZakiyaMedia's words reflecting Black lived experience in rural England.

"Zakiya you are an inspiration and @managingthetilt you have brought Zakiya's words to life so beautifully."

The piece has been constructed using timber that has been charred and blackened to preserve it and captures the local charcoaling traditions of the Forest of Dean.

It coincides with the opening of 'Forest to Forest', a new temporary trail that runs alongside the existing one.