Dark Water, Burning World: The Island of Lesbos and the Boats of Syria
Poem by Ruth Padel, Artwork by Issam Kourbaj
To mark the eighth anniversary of the Syrian uprising (which began on 15th March 2011), the poet, classicist and Hellenophile Ruth Padel joins Syrian-born, UK-based artist Issam Kourbaj in a collaboration to honour the courage of the refugees and the generosity of the islanders.
Kourbaj’s artwork is both in response to the ongoing Syrian tragedy and inspired by 5th century BC Syrian vessels in the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, UK. Through poetry and art, Dark Water, Burning World explores the visible and invisible scars of loss scorched into escaping Syrians by separation from their homeland.
Ruth Padel will give an illustrated talk on her visit to Lesbos in September 2016 and read a poem, inspired by her meetings there with islanders and Syrian refugee, which has been translated into Italian by Paola Splendore, and is currently being translated into Arabic by Jennifer Pineo-Dunn, a PhD Candidate at MEIS, NYU.
Issam Kourbaj’s artwork - made from recycled bicycle mudguards, jam-packed with upright spent matches- will be on display and he will give an illustrated talk on his homeland and ongoing work on the Syrian crisis.
Padel and Kourbaj collaborated on several editions of Dark Water, Burning World. It has been performed and curated at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, the Penn Museum, Brooklyn Museum, at the British Museum, at the Jameel Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. King’s College, London and Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. In May 2019 it will be performed and displayed at the Venice Biennial. Dark Water, Burning World is in the permanent collection of the British Museum.