Last of the Dictionary Men Catalogue

Our new catalogue for Last of the Dictionary Men has arrived and is available for purchase!

Over the course of more than 100 years, thousands of seamen from Yemen settled in the small town of South Shields to work in the established maritime industry based on the rivers Tyne and Wear in the North East of England. Bridge + Tunnel Productions, over three years, worked with this community to create Last of the Dictionary Men, an exceptional multi-disciplined exhibition which highlights the complexities of Modern British identity. The exhibition’s catalogue captures the remarkable journey of the Yemenis of South Shields and their inspiring stories of finding a new home in Britain.

Last of the Dictionary Men is a captivating exhibition documenting the lives and memories of a vital but little-known part of British immigrant history, the establishment of the UK’s oldest Muslim and Arab Community in South Shields, Tyne & Wear. Importantly this exhibition does not only bring attention to this particular small community, but it also offers new forms of representation; new ways of seeing, hearing and understanding the complexity of Muslim identities within Britain today.

The combination of large-scale oral history, photographic and film installations by artists Tina Gharavi and Youssef Nabil delivers charismatic insight into this small yet significant community. Today only 13 men from the first generation survive and their stories are told through this collection of works. Over the course of three years Bridge & Tunnel Productions collaborated with the seamen, to record their endangered stories and experiences and represent them in a new and challenging content. From the accounts of 800 Yemeni men from Tyneside who died at sea in World War II, to the misinterpretations of the Trade Union riots at the Customs House in the 1930s to the long forgotten wedding of Muhammad Ali in 1977 – Last of the Dictionary Men is an inspiring and unheard story of vital importance. ‘The King of South Shields’, a documentary shown along the exhibition, is also available from the Bridge+Tunnel website.

The exhibition was launched at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead in 2008, following a two-year touring exhibition in Yemen, a series of different exhibitions around London, including the Mosaic Rooms and a collaboration with the British Museum and V&A, and will be coming to an end this year after completing a successful international tour.