I’m Ju Gosling. I’m an artist and I’m director of Together! 2012, a disability arts organisation.
Why have you chosen this object to represent your East End?
The object I chose was an 18th century telescope
and quadrant, which was used for navigation, and which I assume would still have
been in use at the beginning of the 19th century. I chose that
because my great-great-great grandfather was living in Stepney and registered
as a mariner’s mate and mariners were people who did navigation.
His son was
also born in Stepney and he went to the Royal Hospital School in Greenwich
which would normally mean that he became a mariner. According to my reading, if they left the school they qualified as a mariner's mate
automatically. But for whatever reason when he married, at the age of 26 at St
Dunstan’s in Stepney, he was actually working as a coach smith and a
housepainter. My great-great grandmother was the daughter of a butcher who
was born in Stepney so it’s just going back to that connection.
I think one of the
things I find interesting, something I have no idea about, is what racial background my great-great-great grandfather had. He had a name
which was 2 kings' names, and the last name of a family that were actually slave
owners, so he could have been one of the five percent of sailors in Britain that were black. I think they say between 3 and 5 percent of the Merchant and Royal Navy fleet were black
from the 1600s onwards. It’s just that it’s a bit hidden from history. So he
really could have been anybody, because apparently West African navigators were
much sought after.
Do you have a personal connection to the East End?
Well I’ve been living in Canning Town for over 30 years. The other connection I really found with the museum was that my house was part of, was a house that was heavily bombed in the blitz. The back of my house which would have had a single bay and all sorts of other objects is now kind of mostly wood and glass.