In 2010 I began to look at the idea of candles being used in religious and folk lore ceremonies. It fascinated me that people see the lighting of a wick as a way to connect with people they have lost. The notion that by creating a light you are somehow keeping a person present is incredibly valid to our basic humanity. It approaches the fear of death alongside the vital understanding of light being the giver of life.
For the past year the British media, and much of the media around the world, has been flooding us with fear inducing articles and imagery regarding the crisis of migration from African and Middle Eastern countries. Following on from an election where the right wing parties gained momentum and an anti-immigration attitude became popular thinking, the newspapers did not offer sympathies or hope to those escaping the devastation of war. Instead they quoted numbers. The number of jobs taken by migrants. The number of people crossing boarders daily. The number of crimes committed by those awaiting asylum. The Prime Minister even described the gathering of people in Calais as a ‘swarm’. A term not out of place in biblical plagues. The press showed us pictures of large quantities of men at train stations and labelled them as ‘of fighting age’. They put fear in every breath those living in small towns across the country took.
Then something changed. A single photograph has the power to connect to individuals and a population in a greater way than a thousand words ever could. In the 1980’s, images of the famine in Ethiopia shook the world into a collective consciousness that resulted in an outpouring of help. Similarly the image of three year old Aylan Kurdi’s body lying on the shoreline of a Greek beach sent a shiver of truth through the eyes of everyone who saw it, and within a short space of time the headlines changed.
Once we remove ourselves from the press, and also from the present moment, we can start to look at the base issue that has emerged in the 21st Century. The search for a home is now loaded with far greater criteria than ever before. Those similar to myself find a natural migration for creativity. The immersion in a new environment brings with it new horizons and optimism. It allows work to grow naturally through encounters with a wider group of people. It also allows reflection on the places you have been before, and the things you have created at a distance that gives perspective. My personal migration has also been driven by ‘love’. The bond between another and myself has seen me spend long periods of time in Berlin and Amsterdam, and is something familiar to millions around the world. Be it a move to a neighbouring city or an entirely new country, our hearts can drive us over long distances.
Then, there is the kind of migration that I am undoubtably privileged to not have had to undertake. Escape. Whether it is from conflict, abuse, segregation or poverty, migration as an escape is a fear ingrained into an indigenous population. Does this fear stem from the individuals need to protect the four walls of a home from ‘invaders’? Does it have roots in the fear that their own society could degrade to a point that they too will have to find an escape?
The performance ‘The Smoke That Roams, Looking For A Home’ took place at Lights Of Soho in London, featuring readings from French, Spanish and British literature discussing the notion of a home, alongside vocal recitals with similar themes, and an interview playback with a Persian migrant who has resided in Holland for twenty years.
Performers – Lana McIver, Henry Bennet, Gala Knorr, Tom Sawyer and Soline Pillet
With Thanks – Sohrab Bayat, Hamish Jenkinson, Alexa Pearson and Lola Bastard