Zakiya McKenzie was born in South London, raised in Kingston and now lives in the southwest of England. In 2019 she was Writer in Residence for Forestry England and, at Ujima 98FM in Bristol, she was a Black and Green Ambassador in 2017. McKenzie is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter with the Caribbean Literary Heritage project, researching Black British journalism in the post–war period. Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Volume 1 is available from Rough Trade Books.
Previous Artist in Residence
From October–December 2021, McKenzie was in residence at Studio Voltaire. During this period, she explored what happened to the environment of Jamaica during British colonisation of the island, beginning in the 17th century.
As a starting point, McKenzie has studied a number of natural resources and places in Jamaica – in particular the Lignum vitae tree and the summit of Catherines Peak in Saint Andrew Parish. The artist has sought to create first–person responses questioning how these vital resources were incorporated into the culture of England’s empire.
In a new sound work, characters from the Court of Caribbean Reconciliation in McKenzie’s debut pamphlet, Testimonies on the History of Jamaica Volume 1 (Rough Trade Books) are played by members of the Jamaican–based Equiknoxx Music collective. Characters from her Elegy for Lignum Vitae essay in The Wild Isles: Best of British and Irish Nature Writing (Head of Zeus, 2021) also make an appearance to give witness before the crowd. The display also includes accompanying photo and video collages comprising material found in digital archives on the Caribbean.
Collage by Zakiya McKenzie. Courtesy of the artist.