The next time you walk through the Bournemouth underpass connecting the town centre to the Travel Interchange, it is worth paying close attention to the graffiti you see on the way – as a graffiti artwork project created by people living with dementia is now adorning the walls of the underground walkway.
The project, by Bournemouth University academics Shanti Shankar and Ben Hicks and titled ‘Tagging Your Identity’, gave people living with dementia the opportunity to express themselves through the medium of graffiti and art, with the completed boards displayed in the Bournemouth underpass. It is an initiative to integrate research on expressing self-identity while raising community awareness.
Ben Hicks, a Lecturer in Psychology at Bournemouth University said, “Dementia can be such a powerful label that is placed on somebody who is diagnosed with the condition and often you can forget about the individual, the person at the heart of the condition, as a consequence you lose your individuality. We thought this project would be a successful way of supporting people to reclaim their sense of identity.”
“This project also challenges the perception of graffiti as a form of art, and who uses it. We thought having it on public display might also challenge those in the community to think more about what dementia is.”
Participants were asked to come up with graffiti ‘tags’ to represent who they are, elements of their past and their aspirations for the future. These graphic expressions of their identity were then created during a series of hands on graffiti workshops.
Professor John Vinney, Vice-Chancellor of Bournemouth, was invited to cut the ribbon to unveil the artwork on display. At the launch of the graffiti art, Professor Vinney said, “I am so proud that Bournemouth University is leading the way in facilitating these sorts of projects. Right at the heart of what we believe in is bringing our research and practice together, and doing so in the community, and this project covers all those areas.
“I like the focus on identity, something I believe in passionately, the way that this art is used to reinforce and reconnect with identity is very powerful. This is a really purposeful and meaningful project and it is great to see it on display in the underpass.”
One of the participants of the project, Janet McDonnell, also attended the launch, alongside Bournemouth Councillor Dave Smith.
Shanti Shankar, Lecturer in Cognitive Psychology at Bournemouth University said, “Through this project we really wanted to spread the awareness of dementia and other neurological disorders amongst local people. There is a person, an individual, under the label of dementia, and we wanted to bring this out and put it on display. We explored the idea of identity and what these individuals think about themselves. We spent time using spray cans, stencils and our imaginations to create displays that highlight individuality.”
The graffiti artwork can be found on display in the underpass on the A35 connecting Oxford Road to the Asda supermarket and Travel Interchange.