I CARRY YOU IN MY EYES, process and engagement, Residency with Kestle Barton, 2018
A residency and public programme, creating exchanges between Syrian refugee families and Cornish residents
Kestle Barton 2018
Supported by Arts Council
This project began when after visiting our exhibition Breadrock at PEER in early 2018, Karen Townsend, director of Kestle Barton invited us to do a residency with Kestle Barton to explore how some of our methods of working with residents on a London Housing Estate would situate themselves within a rural context. We were especially interested in exploring working with marginalised communities and made a connection with Cornwall Fait Forum, a charity working with multi-faith groups of people, including Syrian refugee families. After having established initial contact, we decided to work closer with the Syrian families in particular.
To begin the process, we decided to go deep into the Cornish landscape to discover the messages embedded within the landscape, which we then brought with us to a series of ceremonial workshops with the families. As the process went on, we interpreted a series of Arabic phrases, such as 'I carry you in my eyes' (meaning thank you) and 'peace to the hand that serves' (thanking someone for making food) into a series of gestures within the landscape. Also in response to our evolving exchange with the families, we created a series of objects, including a felted portal. This portal, initially imbued with the story of seven swans in Frenchman's creek, became a symbolic object as a 'gateway between worlds' and always featured as a central object of each gathering. The myth of the seven swans was translated into arabic and performed collectively as a way of connecting ideas of territory and arrival between cultures. The Swans became an analogy of the syrian families having arrived to the cornish land with gifts of sacred knowledge and wisdoms to share.
From this, we created a series of situations wherein people could meet and exchange across cultures in creative ways that did not any require particular language skill. Apart from the Syrian families, we made connections with local craftsmen and fishermen to learn from them. These sessions, working with ancient craft and culinary skills, became like an alchemy of surprising exchange between cultures, and through this trust and respect formed between groups who could otherwise have not engaged.
The residency process led to further long-distance exchange with the families after our arrival back to London, which finally led to the development of a 1 month summer public programme 'Chant of the Whaleswan' hosted in and around our public sculpture 'The Whaleswan'.