Early tile-making workshop with Rosa Uddoh and friend Jaz.

In an extraordinary collaboration bringing together the worlds of art and racial politics, Alexander McQueen’s Sarabande Foundation teams up with artist Rosa Uddoh to create an immersive installation in the Sarabande gallery space: a small timber frame of a house, capped by gently imperfect clay roof tiles.

The work, Thigh House, is a representation of the strong women who create communities, who give each other support and stability, who – working together – build great projects. It does this by using materials once considered the ultimate expression of female servitude: roof tiles cast on the thighs of black slaves.

Rosa Uddoh originally studied architecture and is now an artist at Slade School of Fine Art. She was chosen for a Sarabande scholarship by renowned photographer Nick Knight in 2016 after an early presentation of the house.

“Thigh House was inspired by the Cuban myth that it was the role of black female slaves to make roof tiles on their thighs,” explains Uddoh. “These tiles would then be interlocked to create Spanish colonial roofs. Through Thigh-Tile workshops I’ve been running with black and brown women and non-binary folks, we appropriate this story to our own ends.

“We have fun, make friends, and a shelter by – and for – our community.”

At a workshop, women relax as the tiles set on their thighs. Picture: Rosa Uddoh.

Uddoh will be bringing this installation to life in the Sarabande Main Space as a working exhibition during London Craft Week this month. Audiences will have the chance to see the structure, the tiles that are drying and a collection of video, sound and photography in accompaniment of the piece. As the tiles dry and are then fired in the kiln, Rosa will add each tile to the structure to create a complete roof.

Prior to the exhibition, Rosa will be running 2 thigh-tile workshops where attendees will use their own thighs as moulds to create the tiles.

Rosa with Nick Knight. Photo: Joshua Osborne for the Financial Times Magazine.

Together, participants will learn to make terracotta tiles by moulding clay to the shape of their thighs in a social space where the act of making a functioning shelter exists alongside the chance to meet and talk while the clay dries. The more thighs involved, the bigger the roof – and the shelter it offers – grows. The workshops aim to provide spaces for self-care and healing while learning about the body’s inherent capabilities and engaging with lost and traumatic histories.

While the subject matter is sensitive and heavy, the workshops are intended to be full of laughter and newfound friendship. The hoped-for house frame will be four times larger than the original so that visitors can enter and sit inside the house.

Help bring this work to London Craft Week 2018. Donate here: www.kickstarter.com

Book tickets here: www.eventbrite.co.uk