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The Lampedusa Cross © The Trustees of the British Museum

Lampedusa Cross to go on display at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery

The Hastings Museum & Art Gallery have recently announced that the Lampedusa Cross will be put on display as part of a major exhibition later this year. The exhibition will convey the experiences of the many refugees seeking haven in the UK. HOT’s Jordan Dixon writes.

As refugees continue to embark on often perilous journeys to the UK in order to escape the plights of their home countries, the Lampedusa Cross, a symbol of kindness and community spirit, will make its own journey between some of the UK’s top museums.

A British Museum Spotlight Loan will tour the cross later this year, making its stop in Hastings as part of an exhibition which will run from 10 September to 5 December and is being co-curated with local migrant and refugee groups.

The cross was one of many made by Italian carpenter Francesco Tuccio from the remnants of a boat which caught fire, capsized and sank near the Island of Lampedusa while carrying refugees from Somalia and Eritrea in October 2013. 311 lives were lost that day and the cross remains a symbol of salvation and a reminder of the sad fate that befalls many seeking new beginnings.

The exhibition will also feature a display of twelve tiny boats created by Syria-born artist Issam Kourbaj as part of his Dark Water, Burning World series. Kourbaj crafted the miniature boats from repurposed bicycle mudguards tightly packed with burnt matches as a response to the ongoing tragedy in his home country.

Dark Water, Burning World, 2016, repurposed bicycle steel mudguards, extinguished matches and clear resin. © Trustees of the British Museum. Reproduced by permission of artist Issam Kourbaj

“Lead was the first material I experimented with when making my boats,” Kourbaj reflected. “Soon after I was drawn to bicycle mudguards, which are designed to protect from the mud, yet sadly many Syrians and many others were not guarded by the flimsy boats, lead-like, that they were so desperate to take to escape the destruction.

“Spent matches speak about the people of the boats, with burnt parts to reflect the trauma that those women, children and men carry with them, while water-like resin holds these burnt matches together, just as we all bond, hold and support each other in desperate times”.

The boats were recently nominated as the 101st object in the British Museum and BBC Radio 4’s A History of the World in 100 Objects.

Cllr Colin Fitzgerald, lead councillor for Regeneration, Culture and Tourism, said, “We are very excited to have such an important exhibition coming to the museum later this year, especially with such a special and impactful item like the Lampedusa Cross.

“We have always aimed for Hastings to be a welcoming town, especially for refugees, and we look forward to this exhibition telling some of the stories and experiences of local refugee and migrant communities”.

The exhibition will run from 10 September to 5 December and will be free to visit. Pre-booking will be required to visit the museum and see it.

For full details on when the museum will re-open, along with the opening hours and how to book your free tickets, please visit






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Posted 16:48 Thursday, Apr 1, 2021 In: Public Arts

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