I felt incredibly humbled to attend the launch of renowned artist Arabella Dorman‘s new art installation, Suspended, at St James’s Church, Piccadilly on Thursday.
My good friend, writer Sarah Pylas of the brilliant blog, Grenglish works with Arabella and kindly invited me to the special event and reception hosted by the Reverand Lucy Winkett and guest speakers, Sir Derek Jacobi CBE: award-winning actor and stage director, and Christina Lamb OBE: chief foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times and bestselling author of The Girl from Aleppo, Farewell Kabul and I am Malala.
An utterly arresting installation sculpture created from clothes strewn by refugees on the shores of Lesvos in Greece, this exhibit reopens the despairingly forgotten plight of displaced people both in Europe and the rest of the world.
Through the suspension of ‘clothes in flight’ the refugee crisis becomes humanised once more. No longer are these refugees mere numbers or sensationalist inaccurate headlines in tabloids but people- vulnerable people- children and parents, the disabled, elderly, doctors, nurses, teachers, all fleeing circumstances unfathomable to many of us here in the UK.
These people are all desperate for normality. So desperate that they boarded dingies to escape the ravaged countries they once called home and never wanted to leave.
This mesmerising piece restarts a crucial conversation on humanity urging us all to help those in need at a time we might be unaware that help is still needed, or worse, desensitised to the pain of refugees.
HELP IS STILL NEEDED THOUGH so please consider donating to Starfish Foundation who are supporting unaccompanied minors in Moria Detention Center as well as the refugees at Lesvos Solidarity Camp (formally Pikpa) and who desperately need your financial contributions.
The stories of a great many people stuck in dire existencs, are no longer visible. The fickle news industry appears to have moved on, but we must not. Arabella is making sure of that.
Baby rompers, colourful printed dresses, a bib which reads ‘My 1st Christmas’ -clothes you and I would buy and wear-are all suspended as if in flight, fleeing-it moved me to tears as I listened to the speeches, to Arabella’s words that a boy who’d lost his father during the trip, who on arrival to Lesvos’ shores, delved within his rucksack to hand her an I Love You cushion he’d brought over from his room, a gift he said he would bestow on the first person to welcome him to safety.
…The lit globe, sun-like in the centre of the installation, symbolises hope, in both the refugees, and I felt in us too, to take action and support the refugees.
For there is hope even in great adversity, and deep courage and the determination to prevail, to live. To function normally.
Many success stories materialised at the launch too: young girls receiving education after not being able to study in Syria due to disability and financial restraints, and families able to resettle despite the turmoil and traumatic journey to do so.
…Along with viewing the captivating sphere installation in the centre of St James’s Church, you also have the opportunity to touch a railing of discarded clothes from the shores which are hung by an interactive wall within the church. Arabella recounted that her dog Zorba seemed to smell the fear embued within the clothes when she first unboxed them, leading him to shake and seek comfort by her legs.
Children, small children like yours and mine, were on those dingies with rickety engines on rough waters, hoping for more, their human right to love, warmth, food and normality.
Before I attended the launch, rushing and battling a migraine, I left my business bank card in a cab so had to rush into Lloyds, flapping as I went, in order to cancel it. For a minute within the commotion, I wondered how I might get home as I had no money on me and now no card. I forgot I could draw cash out with a cheque book and felt frustrated that I’d lost my card and might be stuck in Central London.
I entered the soothing and serene St James’ Church rather frazzled from the morning, but upon seeing the installation and hearing Arabella’s powerful words on those in limbo, people like you and I: doctors, lawyers, creatives…All victims of their geography, sharply contextualised my life and little problems, reminding me of how lucky I am, and how so many require mine and your support.
It’s mobilised me to help. To donate.
It’s also mobilised the news stations, many of whom were there that day, filming this seemingly long-forgotten topic.
I hope it encourages you to donate to the Starfish Foundation too, and also to share Arabella’s important work.
Thank you for your consideration.