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The home and legacy of Khadambi Asalache

Children exploring artwork at 575 Wandsworth Road
Children exploring artwork at 575 Wandsworth Road | © National Trust images/Meghan Taylor

575 Wandsworth Road, London, was the home of Khadambi Asalache, a Kenyan-born artist, poet and civil servant who spent almost 2 decades transforming his home with intricate fretwork. Today, his home has become a source of inspiration for collaborators and creatives of all ages, forging social connections within its community and beyond.

Transforming the house

Born in Kenya in 1935, Khadambi Asalache was a poet, novelist and British civil servant. He bought 575 Wandsworth Road in 1981 and spent 19 years transforming it, decorating the floors, walls and ceilings with intricate hand-carved fretwork, and paintings.

Entirely self-taught and with no formal training in carving, Asalache drew inspiration from all over the world, including traditional African houses and Moorish and Ottoman architecture. His fretwork patterns and paintings, with scenes of nature, abstract motifs and figurative details, are cut into intricate layers. He often salvaged wooden floorboards and other offcuts that he found in local skips to make his designs.

Following his death in 2006, Asalache left 575 Wandsworth Road to the National Trust, which first opened to the public in 2013.

Artists at 575 Wandsworth Road
Artists at 575 Wandsworth Road, London | © Eric Myers, Media Worx

Inspiring communities

Today, the house stands as he left it – a space adorned with delicate, deeply personal creations created from simple building materials, which will spark inspiration for generations to come.

Over the last decade, 575 Wandsworth Road has seen a variety of visitors, including community groups and collaborators. From local schoolchildren to academics, writers, poets, painters and textile artists, all have been moved by its striking interiors, collection of objects and Asalache’s written works.

To celebrate the inspirational quality of Khadambi Asalache’s creations at 575 Wandsworth Road, three creative collaborators recently returned to the property: Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian from the London Symphony Orchestra, who was its Composer in Residence between 2014–16; Siobhan Williams, a New Museums School Trainee and Research Resident with Culture& (2020–21); and most recently, Fée Uhssi, a London-based French and Nigerian textile artist, fashion designer and colour therapist. They reflected on their connections to this place, the impact it's had on their own work and their thoughts around home and legacy.

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Discover 575 Wandsworth Road, the home of Khadambi Asalache

Watch this video to discover the inspirational qualities of Khadambi Asalache’s creations at 575 Wandsworth Road. Hear from three creative collaborators who recently returned to the house to reflect on their own connections to this place.

Detail of the fretwork niches at 575 Wandsworth Road inspired by the carved coral houses on the isle of Lamu. Peeking out from between the niches are beautiful green ceramic dishes from China, adorned with elegant images of birds and flowers.

575 Wandsworth Road

Find out about this extraordinary home, when it's open and how to book your visit.

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