Prized Print: Our Community Members tell us about their favourite Migrate edition

I love all my Migrate Art prints, as I do my children, so to choose between is a cruel and impossible request. Yet, there is one I find I am spending more time with than the others, no, no not a backhanded way of confessing I do have a favourite, but because it has come into my life at the same time as a novel I am enjoying tremendously, and the combination resonates in a way I find important. The print is the magnificent Jules de Balincourt, It Depends on What Direction You Look In. Most of the work is one gigantic, beautiful firework explosion, streams of reds, oranges, yellows and blues filling a red sky, dark hills in the distance and a small gathering of people along the bottom. The original work was made, in part, with the Scorched Earth paint Migrate Art founder, Simon Butler, created from the ash of IS-destroyed crops in Iraq. Such a festive scene from a devastating source. This ambiguity is captured in the title; is it in fact a celebration, as I see it, or could something more sinister be taking place? 

The novel, The White Castle, was written by one of my favourite authors, Orhan Pamuk. If you haven’t yet read him, I have just given you a great gift. His novels, always set in Turkey, are filled with history and love and longing and always, always a great deal of melancholy. In this novel, the unnamed narrator, an Italian, is taken into slavery, in Istanbul, sometime in the 17th century, after his boat is ambushed by an Ottoman fleet. One of his first jobs as a slave is to create a magnificent firework display for the wedding of the Pasha’s son. He hopes that doing so will lead to his release so he can return to Italy, his mother and his fiancée. (Spoiler alert, it doesn’t). And like all of Pamuk’s novels, there is as much atmosphere as plot, which allows me, the reader, wonderful flights of imagination. When I look up from the book I look straight into that fantastic explosion of colour and then at the little people along the bottom. Is one of them my protagonist? Is his fellow firework maker there too? Are they watching their creations together, both hoping the Pasha will grant them what they want? What about the others? Are they the wedding guests? I know they are very impressed by the display because Pamuk has told me, the reader, so. Could that give the narrator any sense of satisfaction? Pamuk has also hinted that this character is going to become a very important person in the Ottoman court. Will success dampen his homesickness? Will time and prosperity make him miss Italy less? Will he ever stop wanting to go home? Knowing the writer’s work as I do, I must answer with an emphatic no.  But we don’t need a Noble prize winner to tell us that. We all know that when people decide that they must leave their homeland, it doesn’t mean they stop loving this homeland, even more so when the decision was made for them by force. 

Very close to the Balincourt firework, in this room where I read, is another piece I bought from Migrate Art, Sara Shamma’s haunting painting of the eyes of a child holding a pencil from The Jungle in Calais and looking through a gap into my lovely (if I do say so myself) and certainly calm and peaceful living room. One assumes this is a child in a camp, far from the country in which she was born. A child, one can also assume, for whom the sound of explosion is not welcome, does not mean a celebration.  Living in my house is a flesh and blood child named Kris, also far from her country of birth, who together with her mother and her younger sister, have agreed to stay with us while Putin ravages their native land. Kris is terrified of fireworks. Guy Fawkes, Diwali, the need to ‘try out’ purchases before New Year’s Eve, November, December and early January were stressful months.  Seeing their beauty from the safety of a far-away window does absolutely nothing to relieve her terror of the sound. Explaining that they mark a festival is not in any way helpful. Of course, the print doesn’t come with audio, fortunately, but I know well what that bang is like. I sit in this room, looking at the eyes of the child, looking at the gorgeous bursts of colour against the red sky, and listen to Kris and her sister playing happily in the kitchen, and know that the difference between this life and that, between safety and terror, between freedom and slavery, between laughter and fear, between this direction of looking and that, is a much thinner and more arbitrary line than most of us living in comfort would ever like to admit. That is why art and literature are so important. That is why Migrate Art is so important. Thank you for what you do.

                                                                                        - Anne, London
                                                                                          May 2023