Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

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Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

A Refugee Tent Installation

To mark Refugee Week in 2019, St Paul’s Cathedral hosted Am I My Brother's Keeper?, an installation created from a UNHCR tent used in refugee camp in Jordan by London-based artist Kate Daudy. 

In early 2016, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, gave Kate a tent from Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan, which had been home to a refugee family from Syria. The father of the family wrote his name ‘Abu Teim’ in biro over the front door. Despite prolonged searching, no trace of them has been found since they left.

The brightly coloured crochet elements of the tent were made by internally displaced women in Syria, providing revenue for them and for their families. The crochet circles were brought out of Syria using a complex network of contacts right across the Middle East. The words on the tent are those of refugees, diplomats, aid workers, medical staff and soldiers involved in the refugee crisis from nearly 60 different countries.

The dignity, courage and resilience of those she met whilst conceiving this work struck Kate deeply: “The human qualities we all share, whatever our circumstances, seemed to situate temporal considerations like nationality, political and religious difference as obstacles we can try to overcome.”

The Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas, Canon Pastor of St Paul’s, finds profound theological resonance in the work: “Ideas of ‘home’ and ‘shelter’ are at the heart of my own understanding of the Christian faith, speaking to me of our human longing for the home and shelter we find within the heart of God. I find the vulnerability and transitory nature of the tent at the centre of this installation, sheltered as it is for a time, within this vast, solid Cathedral, deeply moving; and the gathered decorations a reminder of the community of shelter which we are called to be for one another. The piece takes its title from the question defensively posed to God by the Biblical character Cain. A question which still reverberates between and within us today.” 

Kate Daudy is a multidisciplinary artist, whose work looks at home and identity. She gave this piece to the UNHCR in admiration for their work protecting and assisting refugees everywhere. There are 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world (refugees, asylum-seekers and those who have been internally displaced) and we are witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record: an average of one person displaced every two seconds. 

Of Kate’s work, Art Critic Marina Warner has said, “Kate is interested in illuminating power structures and using the visual arts as a means of bringing about discourse that might contribute toward social and political change. Although disruptive, her work is full of optimism. While our current world circumstances can seem so dire, the future remains in our hands.”

St Paul’s Cathedral has been engaged in questions of the movement of people through the work of St Paul’s Institute, including research by Dr Adrian Pabst entitled ‘A Common Good Approach to Free Movement of People’, and through the Cathedral’s support of the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants since 2015. 

Clarissa Ward, is CNN's chief international correspondent based in London, speaks on 'watan', the notion of homeland and what that means in Syria.  Actor Jennifer Wiltsie read David Foster Wallace's essay 'This is Water'.

Alixandra Fazzina, from A Million Shillings, and Hannah Watson, from Trolley Books, discuss themes of homes and identity within the context of their own experience of publishing and photography. Katherine Grieg, from the Wharton Risk Center, discusses the impact of climate change on population movement with artist Kate Daudy.

Author and Record Producer Joe Boyd reflects on the theme 'musical homelands'.  Anna Farina, Head of Syria Relief's London Office, discusses how they are coordinating advocacy work and programme implementation. 

Multi-media performance duo Hylozoic/Desires (Himali Singh Soin & David Soin Tappeser) give a poetry recital on the theme 'Thinking like an Island'. Musician and 2018 Mercury Prize nominee Novelist gives a poetry recital.