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Dark Water Burning World: the Island of Lesbos and the Boats of Syria

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Nash Lecture Theatre, King's College London, Strand Campus,

Strand

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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It is now six years since the Syrian uprising but the sea between Turkey and the Greek islands is still a terrifying passage for Syrians fleeing the violence in their country.

The poet Ruth Padel has had a lifelong relationship with Greece. She visited the island in 2016, went into camps, talked to refugees, islanders and a local newspaper editor who found stark echoes of the Syrian refugees’ stories in memories of her own grandmother, a refugee from Smyrna in 1922. Padel then joined Syrian artist Issam Kourbaj in a collaboration to mark the courage of the refugees, and generosity of the islanders. Kourbaj’s artwork is both in response to the Syrian tragedy and crisis, and inspired by 5th century BC Syrian vessels in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Dark Water Burning World explores, through poetry and art, the visible and invisible scars of loss scorched into escaping Syrians by the separation from their homeland.

Ruth Padel will read a poem on Lesbos and give an illustrated talk of her visit and the situation there today. Issam’s Kourbaj’s artwork will be on display as he gives an illustrated talk about his life and work in Syria and the making of Dark Water Burning World.

This event is given in partnership with The Sanctuary Programme (hyperlink), the response of King’s College staff and students to the flight of 60 million refugees fleeing Syria and other conflict zones.

Bios:

ISSAM KOURBAJ was born in Syria and trained at the Institute of Fine Arts in Damascus, the Repin Institute of Fine Arts & Architecture in St Petersburg and at Wimbledon School of Art. Since 1990, he has lived in Cambridge, was Artist in Residence and Bye-Fellow at Christ’s College where he is now Lector in Art. Several editions of Dark Water, Burning World are currently on display at the Penn Museum, U.S.A as part of the exhibition Cultures in the Crossfire: Stories from Syria and Iraq, at the British Museum, as part of an art intervention called Scars, and was installed for one day at the Jameel Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, as part of Refugee Week 2017.

RUTH PADEL is an award-winning British poet and writer. She is Professor of Poetry at King’s where she teaches Poetry and Drama for the Creative Writing team of the Department of English. Born in London, she began as a classicist, teaching and writing on ancient Greek tragedy and has lived extensively in Crete. Her most recent book, Tidings – A Christmas Journey, is a narrative poem about Christmas and homelessness.


Image: Issam Kourbaj


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Nash Lecture Theatre, King's College London, Strand Campus,

Strand

London

WC2R 2LS

United Kingdom

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