WELCOMING PEOPLE SEEKING SANCTUARY TO THE NORTH EAST THROUGH COMMUNITY WALKS
Future Pasts is artist Henna Asikainen’s latest commission with D6, building on previous projects with us that explore nature, community and belonging. After being put on hold during lockdown, we are delighted that Henna’s community walks are bringing together participants, partners and artists along Hadrian’s Wall in the North East of England.
The participatory project invites families and people with lived experience of migration and displacement, often new to the North East, to come together to discover and explore local landscapes. As Henna says: ‘The approach is grounded in the notions of friendship and radical hospitality and recognition – meaning to make welcome and to dissolve the barriers that prevent people from participating fully in their communities.’
Alongside the walks, Henna will be developing an exhibition of new artwork and visual media in Autumn 2022, which reflect upon the walks and broader themes of her research.
Stories of connection along Hadrian’s Wall
Hadrian’s Wall as the site for the walks provides a rich location for reflection on what it means to belong and the interconnections between communities throughout time. The wall acts as a powerful reminder of the long history of migration to Britain – this year marks 1900 years since it was built. During the Roman Empire, many people from across Europe and North Africa lived, served and ruled along the wall, bringing with them local customs, plants and animals, for example, the carrot, celery and the sycamore, the rabbit and the pheasant. ‘All of these are now common elements of our landscapes and in many ways, they could be said to be a far more significant inheritance than the archaeological remains of forts and walls,’ says Henna.
By inviting and enabling participants to access the history and surrounding green spaces of the wall, Future Pasts aims to break down the known exclusionary barriers to these places of beauty and heritage – both physical barriers and also social and cultural ones around ‘who’ belongs in the countryside, which traditionally has been a white, homogeneous space, with socially conservative values.
The walks give participants the opportunity to discover new local surroundings, to amble, to forage for plants, to take time out, and to share the experience with one another. Speaking from experience, Henna says: ‘This ability to access and experience landscape and nature provides an important psychological and emotive link between countries of origin and destination, even when they present very different characteristics. Finding my way into the countryside, experiencing the landscape and nature that surrounds this city (Newcastle) helped me to put down roots – to begin to feel at home. My projects have been built around this experience and sharing what I have discovered about building a sense of belonging.’
Future Pasts is convening two community walks during May and one on 25 June to coincide with Refugee Week. It culminates with a public exposition in Autumn 2022.
The project is delivered in partnership with D6: Culture in Transit; National Trust; Newcastle University; CPRE Northumberland; Northumberland National Park Authority, and North East Solidarity and Teaching.
Refugee Week – ‘a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary… and held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June.’