King's College London academics explore migration and belonging as part of a global social justice initiative with Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney
A global collaboration between King’s College London academics, Australian artist Penny Ryan, and the Migration Museum, saw people across London share their perspectives on belonging and migration through clay.
In a project funded by the PLuS Alliance, Professor Anna Reading and Dr Jim Bjork from King’s College London worked with the artist to create an interactive installation that explores ‘the right to belong’ in the UK. Hundreds of people attended free workshops, making clay anatomical human hearts and discussing their personal experiences and connections to migration. The cloth-covered hearts, generously fired by London-based Clay Time, were then carried in a procession from King’s to the Migration Museum, where they formed a stunning spiral installation. A public forum was also held with members of a number of community groups.
Discussing the motivation behind the community building project, Professor Anna Reading said: “Particularly after the UK referendum vote, I felt it was important to bring communities together and allow us to talk openly about our different stories of migration that make London, and make the UK.”
Dr Jim Bjork added: “One of the inspiring takeaways from the project was that so many people were able to feel a sense of personal connection, overcoming the abstraction and overwhelming scale that we sometimes have with big issues like this.”
Fazilat Rani, a member of the Mora School Women’s Project who took part in Moving Hearts said that she couldn’t imagine a better way to remind ourselves of how we are all connected. “Some people have no choice to leave their country. Some people do have the choice. I left my country for my kids’ futures, but it can be hard to manage in a new one. We are all human and this world doesn’t belong to anyone. We are here to share it.”
Managing Director of PLuS Alliance, Paul Ramadge said the PLuS Alliance was delighted to support the collaboration. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community to connect through art and conversation on an important and powerful topic. Moving Hearts is a unique and innovative project that seeks to challenge our perspectives on a global issue, and is at the core of what we hope to achieve through the PLuS Alliance.”
The King’s project is part of a wider, global PLuS Alliance research project that enables Arizona State University, King’s College London, and UNSW Sydney to develop partnerships with GLAM institutions (galleries, libraries, community archives, and museums) on the topic of migration.
At Arizona State University, Professor Jacqueline Wernimont is facilitating the cross-institution effort in order to explore best practices for social justice collaboration. The ‘Aquatic Boarder-lands’ project is led by Dr Alexandrina Agloro and Dr Rudy Guevarra, Jr, in collaboration with the Mixe Oaxaqueño artist René González Pizarro and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Weaving together archival pictures, oral histories, traditional art, and music, they will create a video installation for a physical museum space and digital screen viewing that visually narrates a story of Latinx migration to Hawai’i through labour, industry, art and culture. The video itself traverses the screens as a metaphor for the movement of migration and while these cultural connections ask the question, Qué significa Aloha?, the politics of immigration and settler colonialism unfold an untidy, complicated story.
UNSW Sydney researchers Professor Verónica Tello and Professor Ross Harley are working with artists James Nguyen and Salote Tawale to develop a series of projects that bring the museum and archives in critical dialogue with migratory and decolonial futures. These projects have included the Decolonial Everywhere Study and Planning Group with members from the United African Women’s Organisation (Greece) and Lampedusa in Hamburg, as well as a collaboration with the Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) to develop an Art Club with the Albury Wodonga Multicultural Youth Council, a migrant-led youth community group committed to experimenting with different ways of being together.
More on these PLuS Alliance projects to come!