One Friday night my father died very unexpectedly, in the middle of a family celebration, to mark my brother and sister-in-law’s 5th wedding anniversary. We were all enjoying ourselves when we discovered that dad had died. It was a terrible shock and we were all numbed with grief.
The following evening a knock on the door was swiftly answered and to our complete surprise one of our neighbours, a Hindu, was standing on the doorstep with a huge quantity of food. She quickly explained that she didn’t know what to do or how to help us, so had decided to cook a full Indian meal for everyone present, as she thought we’d probably hadn’t eaten, which was perfectly correct! It was amazing, and to this day I still remember how the smells and tastes of spices ‘cut’ through the rawness of grief. It was a true humanitarian gesture of kindness.
I chose this story because when I read it I was interested in the idea of grief and the darkness that comes with it, contrasted against the brightly coloured, warm spices in the story. I was also interested in the act of kindness existing between people of different cultural backgrounds.
Sara Alfaraj is a graphic designer working full time as a website designer in Norwich. Her artistic practice outside of work consists of digital collage, illustration, print making, and, occasionally, doll making. Her Middle Eastern/British heritage informs her fascination with contrast, which she enjoys exploring through colour and subject matter.
The travelling communities in Ireland are accepted as part of their history and in places where they are integrated, where possible, into the community, schools and of course the church. I went to school with some itinerant children as they were referred to. But inclusion and respect was always shown in our small town. The Ward family were the local family who lived in town in a caravan on the outskirts of town. Due to traditions, it was custom if a death occurred, the mobile home of the deceased family member was burned to remove any mi adh (bad luck) irrespective of the distress or circumstance. On this occasion the father of the family died leaving his pregnant wife and multiple children in a very harsh winter. The community immediately pooled funds to buy a new caravan to save the family from further distress. And they were rehoused instantly.
In the same family, the only daughter Rose Ward came to my mum aged 18 to say she was ‘paired’ and therefore getting married, but she had no dress. My mum rallied her friends and ensured Rose had a day to remember. She wore mums’ friend Margot Kenny’s wedding dress and also got bridesmaid dresses donated. The mums of the town rallied to ensure Rose had her special day. The day before the wedding, Rose came in a panic to mum saying she had no shoes and mum asked her what size shoe she was….. her answer was 3,4,5 or 6 – she didn’t care, she’d squeeze into anything as long as they were white wedding shoes. So funny. Years later I met Rose and she told me how her family never forgot the kindness shown by the community and especially my mum. It was a stretch too far that she thought Rosie was named after her, but I did laugh.
This is a beautiful story of kindness, compassion, inclusion and a community coming together. It also demonstrates the important role textiles play in our lives, on a religious and social level. The wedding dress operates as signifier and is imbued with iconography, tradition, nostalgia and cultural values.
Nicola Hockley is an artist and designer. Within her art practice, she explores the obscured, the overlooked and the forgotten. She aims to invite the public to engage with the intimate details and the patterns that normally go unnoticed. Her cross disciplinary approach enables her to explore multiple modes of representation and encourage a sensory response.
I was staying in a monastery on Mt Athos when I broke a tooth on some hard bread at supper. There was a monk dentist, Father Luke, who dealt with the tooth. It was so badly broken that I needed a root-canal treatment. He treated me on two or three evenings after Compline. And then sent me to a contact in Volos where I was to stay next to finish the job with a crown. I asked Father Luke what I owed for my treatment. He replied, very cheerfully, ‘Nothing. In any case, Malcom, you can’t afford it.’—which was probably true.
In the US, being able to afford dental care is a big deal. Getting a job that offers medical AND dental coverage is a source of envy. The beauty I saw in this story is the monk’s warm and light-hearted personality coming through.
Not only did he dismiss the story-teller’s offer of payment, but he also teases him, as though hours of his labour were well worth it. I also loved the way the story-teller was equally humorous in his reply.
Kazz Morohashi is a Japanese-American artist/designer from California. Her primary interest is in designing social learning experiences that enable people to tap into the emotional world of others. Her work is often illustrative and varies from 2D graphic and handmade designs to 3D sculptural work. She is drawn to narrative imaginary worlds and finds her inspiration in everyday life and animals.
We were in Indonesia and were travelling around on bicycles. I fell, and these kids came out and helped me up. They took me to their place and started to clean my wound. One of the kids’ mom came out with a bottle of iodine and started painting my bloody knee with the red liquid. It was so sweet of her. But then she continued and started covering all of my mosquito bites! I ended up covered with all these red iodine polka-dots. It was pretty funny, but I still remember how nice they were to me.
I chose this story as my whole practice is based around colour. Although red is not a colour I usually work with I really liked the positive association red has on this story. I was inspired to push myself and make a piece that reflects this positive and humorous view on the colour. I was also immediately drawn to the selfless act of kindness the kids and their mother showed to the author of the story and how it has stayed with her to this day.
Tahlia Armstrong is a colour field painter. She focuses on reacting to the qualities of paint, surface and most importantly colour without resorting to evocative titling to keep the focus on the work’s formalist values. She is an advocate for the appreciation of abstract art and pushing the boundaries of traditional painting.
I was travelling on the train to Liverpool alone when a passenger sat by me and started to speak to me. The passenger was very insistent to learn all about me and made me feel very uncomfortable. The passenger found out my phone number and wanted to take me out.
Another passenger then boarded the train and sensed something was wrong. They came over to me and asked if I was okay and made me feel a lot better. As a result of this, the first passenger left me alone and I felt safe again.
‘Passengers’ spoke to me for two reasons. First, I thought it was relatable to me, as I have been harassed in one way or another (whether that is inside a train or not) by others. Sometimes the incidents ended with minor consequences, but other times they had a much larger impact. Second, I also liked how vague the narration was: no names, gender, race, social position or other details. This allowed me, the reader, to think with an open mind and stray away from traditional stereotypes.
Rafail Kokkinos is a painter, muralist and illustrator from Athens, Greece. He uses different mark-making materials to create uncertain images/narratives that allow and encourage the viewer to use their imagination and life experiences to interpret them in their own relatable ways. He is based in Norwich.
My sister is a nurse and one day the police brought in this homeless guy to her hospital. He was in a really bad shape. Dirty. All dirty, smelly, horrible, you know. His hair was all matted and his clothes were like all stuck and full of gunk. He wasn’t right. The doctors had to examine him but no one wanted to touch him, that’s how bad of a state he was in.
Anyway, one of the police officers just couldn’t watch anymore and started to give him a hand when no one would even go close. He helped him undress and clean and get examined.
My sister said she was so touched by the kindness of the officer. She doesn’t think he did it out of duty, but out of respect from one human to another.
I chose this story because of the rise in homelessness around the UK and especially in Norwich. I think empathy and kindness are needed to solve the problem. It also appealed to me because my dad is an ex-policeman and always has an interesting story about his time in the force.
Callum Ritchie is an illustrator and designer. His work often deals with health as a theme and he is currently working on a design project to make the everyday environment more accessible for disabled people.