Today, The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, opened ‘Art is Freedom’, a new art exhibition featuring work by survivors of modern slavery curated by the crisis charity Hestia. The exhibition was launched in Paternoster Square on Anti-Slavery Day with a ceremony attended by the survivors who produced the artwork.
Art is Freedom aims to empower participants to creatively express themselves, tell their story and communicate hope. This year Hestia worked with two volunteer artists to create a 6-week creative arts workshop in St Faith’s Church in Brentford, working closely with a member of St Faith’s congregation, Jacky Douglas. Each week, participants explored a different media and learned new skills.
As well as showcasing the survivors’ work, the exhibition provides an interactive environment in which to educate visitors of the prevalence of modern slavery in the UK today. Visitors have the opportunity to speak to members of Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response team to learn more about modern slavery, including how to spot and report the signs.
An anonymous survivor of modern slavery said:
“Taking part in Hestia’s Art Is Freedom workshops and trying photography has really helped. Meeting people and doing things with others helped control my anxiety. The friends I made gave me advice on how to cope and it was a release; it stopped me thinking about what happened to me.”
Jacky Douglas, volunteer artist and a member of the congregation at St Faith’s Brentford, said:
“When Mandeep Dhillon and I signed up to lead the art project, our intention was clear: We wanted anyone joining the group to feel like a creator; channeling their thoughts, dreams and personalities on to the page. We wanted to give them license to let their imagination fly – to suspend everyday worries and enable art to free them. Art is Freedom.”
Patrick Ryan, Chief Executive at Hestia said:
“Modern slavery silences victims and brutally takes their freedom. In providing survivors with a creative outlet to explore their trauma, they can find their voice and begin their journey to recovery. While this journey to recovery is different for everyone, Art is Freedom plays a vital role in supporting survivors of modern slavery to a life beyond crisis and a future with a voice and freedom.”
The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, said:
“Through the Diocese of London’s work with inspirational charities and community groups, I’ve seen first hand the devastating and widespread impact that Modern Day Slavery has in our city and across the world. There are an estimated 40 million victims of slavery in the world today, and tens of thousands in the UK. Many of these victims are hidden in plain sight.
“Even when freed, survivors of Modern Day Slavery often suffer from long-term pain, isolation and fear. That is why Hestia’s work, both in supporting victims and raising awareness of the prevalence of the issue, is so vital. Churches have an important role to play too – we will continue to work with community groups to raise awareness and help to support them with the fundraising, volunteers and local infrastructure they rely on.”