By Clare Twomey
Ceramicist and academic Clare Twomey met Nisad ‘Šiško’ Jakupović, who survived the notorious Omarska concentration camp during the Bosnian War. Nisad experienced the pain of communities turning on one another, as school friends became oppressors. The pair discussed Nisad’s experience of the concentration camps, and how human solidarity can triumph even in horrific circumstances.
Clare’s ‘Humanity is in our Hands’ project is a response to meeting Nisad.
On Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2015, Clare Twomey invited the public to give their thoughts on the subject of humanity. The artist walked over Westminster Bridge from 7am until 7pm, politely and quietly giving away 2,000 invitations to people she encountered.
This invitation said: Today you are invited to be part of a new work, your words will be placed on thousands of beautiful porcelain objects that will be made in the coming year. These objects will be handed back to the public as gifts on Westminster Bridge, on this date one year from now, 27 January 2016. The recipients will become the custodians of your thoughts.
The public responded to the invitation with hundreds of beautiful texts, words and stories detailing the qualities that society could cherish to accomplish a humane society.
Clare has now handmade the artwork – 2,000 delicate porcelain spoons, inscribed with words collected from the public. The spoons relate to Nisad’s life story – whilst in the concentration camps he and his fellow prisoners carved spoons from wood, using a piece of broken glass. Clare’s porcelain spoons are based on one of these wooden spoons. They make a connection with nurturing, feeding and caring for each other.
These thoughts from last year’s participants will be given back to a new set of members of the public, again on Westminster Bridge, on Holocaust Memorial Day 2016. The artwork becomes a gift, a fragile gift that needs care and warrants consideration.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said:
’27 January 2016 will the culmination of Clare’s ambitious, thoughtful and profound project, which honours the life story of Nisad Jakupović, and challenges us all to consider our responsibilities to create and preserve a humane society. The gifting of these 2,000 beautiful objects is a wonderful and fitting activity for Holocaust Memorial Day.’
You can see more about the project at keepthememoryalive.hmd.org.uk.