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Olympia and Juan
Emily Wood Ramirez Ahmed

Emily was born in London, to a Mexican-Indigenous-American mother and British father. She has lived in London, Brighton, San Diego CA, Guayaquil EC and Santiago de Chile. Currently based in Wood Green, North London.

 

Mixed media, paintings, sculptures and community arts engagement. Emily celebrates and explores landscapes, heritage, diaspora and concepts of cultural identity through her artworks 'La Calaca Inglesa. 

 

"My great-grandfather Juan Ramirez was born in Penjamo Mexico. His tribal ancestry is of the Tarasco tribe that have inhabited the mountains above Penjamo for an unknown number of centuries. His wife Olympia Silva Barrios came from the Northern part of Sonora, the tribal land of the Yo'eme Yaqui. Juan and Olympia built their home in Tecate on the border of Mexico and the US. Their son, my grandfather Juan/John grew up straddling this border and settled in San Diego, California, with his wife Margarita/Margaret Chacon. She was Mexican and Apache Indigenous American. Their oldest daughter, my mother Olympia Ramirez, met my father Robin Wood and followed him back to London, England, where my sister and I were born. This rich history of migration and the mixing of cultures continues to my children Olympia and Cody who encompasses this story as well as that of her Bangladeshi / Irish London born dad."

 

Inspired by the mixing of cultures, movements of people, cultural identity and landscapes. Emily explores and celebrates this through her own artwork and through the facilitation of community arts workshops.  She hopes that her creations can help others to enjoy the playful vibrancy of culture, ancestry and so find a greater connection to and pride in their own.

 

In recent years there has been an explosion of Mexican culture in London and across the UK. Emily is keen to promote this celebration and awareness of Mexican and Indigenous American art and culture, but she is concerned by the increasing commodification and cultural appropriation. The "borrowing" of minoritised ethnic culture (for example symbolism, clothing, food, traditional items and ceremonial practices) without permission, reciprocity, remuneration or recognition of a person/group's culture may be unintentional but it is often exploitative and oppressive. Through her art and community engagement work, Emily celebrates her own mixed heritage and whilst doing so she hopes to enable wider exploration and learning. Promoting cultural appreciation (not appropriation) that creates space, inspires learning, shared enjoyment, pride and respect.

Experience, training & education

 

Emily has been a practising artist and community engagement worker for over 20 years and enjoys fusing these two passions together.

 

She currently works as an independent artist in her home studio in North London, where she sketches, paints, makes, dreams and designs arts projects of all sorts. She is also a freelance community engagement and research specialist working with the National Health Service (NHS), local government organisations and charities promoting service-user engagement and coproduction within health research and service improvement.


Emily received a distinction for her masters degree in MA Applied Anthropology, Community & Youth Work at Goldsmiths University. Further studies have included BA Hon's degree American History at Sussex University and the University of California, San Diego (focus on Mexican/Chicano and Indigenous American history). Certificates in Arts Psychotherapy, Arts Management and Creative Arts with people with learning disabilities. She completed her diploma in Foundation Arts and Design, NCFE life drawing, painting, and printmaking at Brighton City College and her Pre-foundation at Wimbledon School of Art.

She has extensive experience as an arts facilitator and youth worker, project managing and facilitating community events, workshops, delivering the Arts Award and using creative arts to work with children, young people and communities in the UK and internationally. 

Emily was an active trustee for 5 years with Articulate (FKA the Charlotte Miller Art Project) a UK based charity that works internationally to support children and young people's personal and social development through art. In 2008-2009 she worked with Articulate and JUCONI (Fundación Junto Con Los Niños) facilitating arts workshops for young people working or at risk of working on the streets in Guayaquil, Ecuador. This project culminated in a major exhibition of their artwork at the Guayaquil Museum of Art and Anthropology.