The Lampedusa cross is to go on display at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery
Hastings Museum & Art Gallery is excited to announce that the Lampedusa cross from the British Museum will go on display as part of a major exhibition later this year.
A British Museum Spotlight Loan Crossings: community and refuge will tour the Lampedusa cross around the UK for the first time. Made from the remnants of a boat carrying refugees wrecked near the Italian island of Lampedusa, close to the coast of Tunisia, the cross carries poignant messages about kindness, community and the indifference faced by many refugees.
Alongside the cross will be a display of twelve tiny boats from Syrian-born Issam Kourbaj?s series Dark Water, Burning World, made from repurposed bicycle mudguards tightly packed with burnt matches to represent the fragile vessels used by refugees to make their perilous voyages across the Mediterranean. Seeking to evoke the plight of Syrians, these were made by Kourbaj as a response to the ongoing tragedy in Syria. The boats have recently been nominated as the 101st Object in the British Museum and BBC Radio 4's 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'. A 10th anniversary programme was recently broadcast to reflect on the major issues which have affected the world in the past decade. Inspired by Syrian antiquities depicting sea vessels that date from the 5th century BC, the boats convey the fear and exhaustion of the crossing, and the trepidatious uncertainty of survival. In utilising cheap and discarded materials that might otherwise go to waste as the basis for the artwork, Kourbaj represents the need for refugees to use what they can freely acquire following separation from their homeland, while urging the global community to find value in everything and everyone, no matter how humble their origins.
The exhibition is being co-curated by local migrant and refugee groups based in Hastings. The museum has been working with local community groups to prepare for the exhibition as part of the What's in the box? project. The exhibition runs from 10th September 2021 until 5 December 2021 and will be free to visit.
Director of the British Museum Hartwig Fischer said,
"The wood of the cross is a reminder of the passage, not only of these vulnerable refugees who staked everything on the boats being able to safely transport them, but of the human beings throughout history who have sought refuge on similar perilous journeys. I hope visitors around the UK will connect with the poignancy of the cross and be able to reflect upon the ongoing disruption, upheaval and hope that it symbolises."
Artist Issam Kourbaj said,
"Lead was the first material I experimented with when making my boats. I used it for its density, as a response to the many tragedies of sinking boats in the Mediterranean, but also the ancient miniature model ship carrying three goddesses that inspired this piece was made from lead too. Soon after I was drawn to bicycle mudguards, which are designed to protect from the mud, yet sadly many Syrians and many others were not guarded by the flimsy boats, lead-like, that they were so desperate to take to escape the destruction. Spent matches speak about the people of the boats, with burnt parts to reflect the trauma that those women, children and men carry with them, while water-like resin holds these burnt matches together, just as we all bond, hold and support each other in desperate times
Cllr Fitzgerald, lead councillor for Regeneration, Culture and Tourism, said,
"We are very excited to have such an important exhibition coming to the museum later this year, especially with such a special and impactful item like the Lampedusa cross. We have always aimed for Hastings to be a welcoming town, especially for refugees, and we look forward to this exhibition telling some of the stories and experiences of local refugee and migrant communities."
Helen Dodaki, artist and project partner, said,
"Art has the power to send a message to the world. Through art, we can tell our story, happy or sad. This is a chance to hear the voices of the refugee community in Hastings, and to introduce the community to the beautiful objects and architecture in Hastings Museum."
The exhibition and community work has been made possible with funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund and the Dorset Foundation.
Pre-booking will be required to visit the museum and Spotlight Loan. For full details on when the museum will reopen, along with opening hours and how to book your free tickets, go to www.hmag.org.uk.