Metaphors of historical events, changing identities and fluid political landscapes.
Images and text by George Sfougaras. Poems: ‘unaccompanied’ by Michele Benn, ‘Love and War’ Malka Al Haddad and ‘Layers’ by Paul Conneally.
Foreword by Rita Hindocha, Senior Educational Leader, Leicester UK.
Rita Hindocha arrived as a refugee from Uganda in 1972.
The urgency and relevance of the Recovered Histories Project cannot be overstated at this particular juncture in our history. As we are daily assaulted by appeals to an ever narrowing sense of what constitutes “us”, Sfougaras’s work asserts for us the binding humanity of our shared histories.
In capturing and melding in ever dazzling combinations the journeys of people across time and continents, the exhibition reaches out to offer an inclusive world view, one we can all access if we care to listen and observe with as deep a compassion as Sfougaras has done over the years. He had mined this seam of memory over the decades with ever more compelling force and precision reaching satisfying maturity in this latest work.
The unique quality of this project resides in showing how the migrant and refugee experience can resonate with agency even while born in subjugation and flight; it can reveal a haunting beauty if the palimpsest of fragments and memories is allowed to be built up and then uncovered.
However, this can only be achieved if the artist has the humility to seek out these rich stores of memory held in the margins and buried crevices of society. This is the unique gift that Sfougaras has. His attentive ear and compassion elicit hidden stories and testimonies which would otherwise remain neglected if not downright suppressed. This makes for often striking and illuminating juxtapositions of the catastrophic and the beautiful, enabling us to see the visually arresting even in the midst of horror and fear.
Ever respectful of his subjects and collaborators, Sfougaras is adept at finding meaning and beauty in unexpected places. He is not afraid of delving into deeper dimensions of spirituality to access rich layers of meaning and experience. This means that the project has uncovered histories from far and wide but which now fortunately reside in our midst locally if only we had the compassion and curiosity to look.
For the Recovered Histories Project, Sfougaras has gathered around him other like-minded talents who work in other forms and media, including poetry and film. This adds a further richness of insight to the shared experience of journeys made.
The current brutal and unashamed rhetoric of closing in, of walling ‘ourselves’ off from ‘others,’ requiring these ‘others’ to go ‘back to their countries’ means that this complex affirmation of the migrant experience has never been more necessary. The ‘us’ here is wide, embracing and unifying. Beauty endures in our common human bonds across space, time, language and beliefs. Therefore, there is hope as this vision is so much more compelling than that of the current crop of our chest thumping political masters. What is uncovered here is light and love, deep and wide enough to embrace all our stories.
Rita Hindocha, July 2019