Birds Crossing Borders has been developed by deep:black, a creative not-for-profit co-operative run by Petra, Polly, Katharine & Trupti. The team has a combined expertise in mediation, conflict resolution, theatre, performance, photography film, story-telling, youth and community development, team and organisational development, and events management. We are supported by a pool of associate artists, facilitators, volunteers and a network of partners.
Meet the deep:black team and the artists behind this campaign:
Trupti: I used to work with an organisation that supported ‘unaccompanied children’: refugees under the age of 18 who somehow manage a treacherous journey from whichever bloody war torn country they were escaping seeking safety on our shores. In those years we used to be kinder to these children most of whom had left behind their families, usually under a cloud of secrecy and fled often in the dead of night, terrified that as the oldest male in the family they would become the next target of violent militia creating havoc in their once peaceful homes. We once treated them as children in need of protection within our system of processing refugees, we used to try and understand that children don’t usually understand the complexities of the politics that turn their lives upside down so we’d be sympathetic when they were unable to articulate why they were fleeing persecution and how they came to arrive in Britain, exhausted, often traumatised, bewildered, frightened and uncertain of what the future held in store for them. We would make allowances for inconsistencies and contractions in the telling of their harrowing stories, months passing from one vehicle to another, and the extortionate sums their families scraped together to pay unscrupulous traffickers promising safety to desperate people. We would have, not so long ago, provided shelter, food and clothing, dignity, support and most importantly some understanding and compassion to those who’ve lost everything in an effort to help these children rebuild a future, and piece together the fragments of their lives. It seems that our compassion and our patience have run out and we speak instead of numbers and money and are preoccupied only with how much it will cost us to help.
I’ll never forget the words of a young man from Iraq who told me, ‘I’m glad to be in Britain. I would have been killed in Iraq so I owe my life to being here. But while they feed our bodies, they give me clothes, food and a roof over my head, they don’t look after my head. It’s easy to go crazy with grief, with uncertainty and always waiting and waiting’. To me this is a plea that we remember our humanity and treat our fellow human beings as we might wish to be treated if we found ourselves in such dire circumstances that we might once again be a nation proud of our long history of welcoming outsiders and to remember to be kind.
Petra: In her 1998 book ‘The End Of Imagination‘, Arundhati Roy shares a number of very simple and very complex truths. One that I keep coming back to again & again is her reminder ‘to never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple‘. The current situation of refugees is hugely complex in terms of its causes, scale, impact and possible responses. I’m likely to be one of many who sometimes wishes I could just ‘do the ostrich’ and bury my head in the sand so that I won’t need to see – and therefore not deal with – the complexity around me!
The only very simple answer to that seems to be that to do nothing at all is simply wrong. To find one simple thing that I can do in the belief that others will do the same is part of the solution. And mine comes from a very simple place: that of holding up ‘hospitality’ as one of my most important values. I’ve technically been a migrant for only some 15 years of my life though I’ve also been a migrant in my own country before I started crossing borders. The single most important thing that has helped me to stay sane, safe and true to myself was that of other people – in South Africa, in Northern Uganda, in Bosnia, in the UK – being welcoming, open and interested. I guess The End of Imagination is also that place where we stop seeing the other person as a fellow human being, as someone with a history and a home, with joys and worries, with memories and dreams. For me Birds Crossing Borders is one simple way of re-imagining that.
Katharine: I felt really inspired to do something that would connect people in the UK with those currently living in Calais when I heard about Teatro Due Mondi‘s work in Italy. In 2011 the theatre company started running workshops response to the arrival of around 30 men from Ghana, Libya, Nigeria, Chad, Pakistan who were seeking refuge in Europe and had been housed just outside the company’s hometown Faenza, Italy.
After speaking to some of the men, Teatro Due Mondi learnt that one of things they were missing was human connection, so they decided that they would start some theatre workshops with the aim of bringing Italians and the newly arrived migrants together in a space of creative exchange. Four years on, The Refugee Project is still going and has created outdoor performances and documentaries and now counts 35 members who come from all over the world. Hearing about what they’re doing reminded of how important connection is for us all and how vital it is to soar above the bureaucratic and political noise surrounding the issue of immigration and reach out from a place of compassion to connect with those who have fled their homes in search of a safer future.
Polly: When we first discussed finding a way to respond to the atrocities that were unfolding along the perimeters of Europe, I was excited to find a simple means of communicating our solidarity with the men, women and children trying to find their way here. As the tragedy became increasingly extreme, I felt that there was no adequate response. I became overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation, and uncomfortable with the thought of delivering postcards to such desperate people; shouldn’t we have been taking them into our homes instead? Dismantling borders? Sending tents and blankets, at least? What use were postcards?
I think what changed my mind was remembering that this project isn’t an alternative to all that, but an addition to it. And that to me, it is about reaching across an arbitrary line that divides us, to state clearly that it is a line that I do not recognise. Postcards alone won’t dissolve the idiocy of our in-group/out-group mentality, but anything that can start to tell a different story has to be worth doing.
Meet the Artists that contributed their designs to Birds Crossing Borders:
Carla Ferrari was born in Peru but has lived and worked in London since 2009. She works as an educator, textile designer and illustrator. She mostly produces works with ink pens and colour pencils. Find out more about Carla’s work on her website . Carla says about her design for Birds Crossing Borders: I was reading about migratory birds and I found this endangered species from the Middle East called Northern Bald Ibis…
Julia Miranda, an Anglo Brazilian painter. She moved with her family from Rio de Janeiro to London as a child.
With paint, collage and drawing she explores human relationships, change and memory.
You can find out more about Julia’s art on her website.
Rani Khanna, a half French, half Indian, and grew up in an artistic background. She studied Fine Art and Photography in Paris and London before completing her BA (Hons) in Film & Video at The London College of Communication, University of the Arts in 1995. Since then she has been making documentaries for broadcast and producing films for various charities, organisations and NGO’s as well as teaching filmmaking and running workshops. She lives in London where she continues to explore her creativity through different mediums and collaborations. You can find links to Rani’s film work via her website.
Nick Cowell is a British actor, illustrator, designer and sometimes writer who lives and works in London. He studied and lived in Glasgow for 15yrs before coming back to England 6 years ago. He has also lived in Bologna, Italy and works as a director and designer for an Italian theatre company in Rimini. His illustration work draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources ranging from Asterix to Egon Schiele, Aubrey Beardsley to street art. You can find out more about Nick’s work on his website.
Marie-Noëlle Wurm is a French-American-German artist based in Montpellier, and sometimes in Montreal, which are her two heart-homes. She loves creating worlds that are dreamlike, whimsically playful and delicately dark — filled with magical or haunting atmospheres. In her illustrations and abstract work, she strives to explore the hidden, the subconscious, the places of the mind that are forgotten, and mysterious places of beauty. Deep-ocean creatures, strange plants, knotted trees, and crumbling houses are a constant source of inspiration. Through her work, Marie-Noëlle hopes to inspire others, and resonate with the quiet, magical, and sometimes dark, worlds that lie within us all “Let us not curse the darkness. Let us kindle little lights” (Dada Vaswani). You can find out more about Marie-Noëlle’s art on her website
Lauren Curl is a multidisciplinary printmaker, her work often incorporates reclaimed scraps of printed ephemera, photography, hand drawn elements and other found oddities and aims to produce surfaces that interrogate texture, layer and pattern. Her visual language always operates in response to my environment, but maintains the principles of process, craft and the hand-made at its core.