Sacred Things: Elalmadinah … To The City : by Liz Hingley

Sacred Things: Elalmadinah … To The City

Commissioned by GRAIN in 2017 Liz Hingley, photographer and anthropologist,  collaborated with Syrian individuals who had arrived in Coventry through a distinctive UN program. Her aim was to capture the experience of the refugees  by weaving together archival collections and significant symbols of present-day life, Liz  explored the future of the UK’s fastest-growing city.

The work referenced the historic practice of presenting honoured visitors with symbolic keys to the city gates in relation to the SIM Card given to refugees as soon as they land in the UK. The SIM Card offers a direct link to scattered loved ones and an archive of photographic memories.  As an object and tool it thus offers an immediate sense of security, identity and home in a new place.

The work was curated as an  installation at  The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, the individual’s symbolic SIM Cards created handcrafted jewellery, personalised with symbols and exhibited alongside key collections from the city’s archive.

Liz has gone on to develop the SIM Project further giving tangible meaning to people’s virtual networks and exploring how the images we create and exchange through our smartphones map our place in the world and provide a portable sense of belonging.

The growing collection of personal SIM artefacts in the mobile exhibition have been made by over 170 participants from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, and Libya at free workshops held in 7 countries across Europe to date.

People who have experienced displacement and those working to support refugees and asylum seekers are invited to intimate workshops.  In 2023 these took place at the Martin Parr Foundation and the Royal Photographic Society and in 2024 The SIM Project will be at Houston, Texas.

The SIM Project is led by Liz Hingley in collaboration with a growing team including Frank Menger of the Centre for Print Research at UWE, Bristol, jeweller Sofie Boons, Egemen Kızılcan and Janahan Sivanathan. The project is sponsored by 4JET innovations in glass.         

This project was commissioned by GRAIN Projects and was generously supported by Arts Council England, Rubery Owen Trust, Coventry University and The Herbert Art Gallery. Enormous thanks was also owed to Coventry City Council, Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre and the participants in the project.

Copyright 2016 GRAIN.