To migrate – to move from one place to another in response to adverse or seasonal conditions; animals and birds migrate in rhythm with their environment and across history human beings have migrated from once place to another in search of a better life. Migration does not necessarily mean permanence. Just as swallows return to Africa then come back to the Northern Hemisphere, many human migrants will look to return to their roots. Surely such movement of peoples enriches histories and localities? All of us will have benefitted from a migration at some time in the past. However, to leave one’s hom e is as Shaun Tan expresses it “an act of imagination, a flight of imagination”. Today, unprecedented numbers are embarking on the “flight of Imagination” – a desperate step into an unknown fuelled by a spark of hope that there will be a welcome and something better at the end.
In Migrations: Open Hearts Open Borders we find fifty postcards each with a image contributed by an illustrator from around the world often with a message sent as a gesture of support focussing on issues of inclusivity and cultural diversity. Each illustrator was asked to imagine a bird, picking up the notion of flight and of freedom, and these have then been arranged to illustrate the journey – Departure, Journey, Arrival and Hope for the Future. Setting the tone is Jackie Morris’ Peregrine Falcon who flies off the endpapers to the accompaniment of Robert Macfarlane’s words. There are then treasures to explore, to inspire reflection and discussion. The styles are diverse, arresting, challenging – the cover design makes this clear where the title Open Hearts Open Borders is juxtaposed with a flight of hostile arrows. The messages from each artist are equally inspiring and thoughtful. This is not just a pretty little publication to accompany an exhibition. This is a subtle, powerful tool that can be used in many ways – to open eyes to the riches of diverse visual languages, to encourage reflection on a wide range of questions, issues, assumptions and beliefs. It is a book that can be used in many different settings – quietly for private thought, with children encouraging young minds to think about big questions, with groups of adults unlocking stories, memories, hopes and fears, creating empathy and sympathy. Here there is no requirement to be able to read; the images provide the inspiration. That the production values are so high and the format unthreatening adds to the value. This is not a book to be pigeonholed; it also needs to migrate – to take that flight of imagination – and find a home not just on every shelf but in every hand and mind.