COMINGS & GOINGS 

Comings & Goings (2009) is a photographic series in three parts; Migrant Women, Birds and Prison Families. The different sections interweave metaphors proposing links and connections between all living things; our desire to be free, our instinct to nest, to seed, to move and be alive. 

All of the photographs are taken in the Northern English town of Armley, Leeds. Armely is a multicultural town that was once the center of the Industrial Revolution. It is also the home of the Victorian prison HM Prison Leeds. 

Comings & Goings was exhibited at HM Prison Leeds - on both the inside walls of the visitors room and the outside walls of the prison, hopefully prompting ideas about communication and about breaking down barriers within communities.

It is also a book published by Bad Books with an introduction by Jay Griffiths.

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MBOLA

Mbola, a professional dancer, came from Madagascar in 1998, a country that neither of her two children have ever seen.  

Madagascar has been separated from mainland Africa for over 170 million years. As a result, it developed a unique species of wildlife. Over 90% of the island’s plants and 70% of its animals are endemic. Six of Africa’s eight species of Baobao tree are indigenous to Madagascar. 

The fig tree is also found in Madagascar and was one of the first plants to be cultivated by humans. It is native to southwest Asia and The Mediterranean and usually only found in similar climates. Behind Mbola grows a six metre high fig tree. Fig trees are not often found in Yorkshire, but water courses carrying seeds throughout Leeds’ industrial past have sustained a few trees here. 

Warm water used for cooling industrial plants, and pollution in the form of effluent, created warm, moist conditions in which the seeds could germinate. Unlike these fig trees growing along the canal and river, this tree is next to the railway line away from water. The origin of this tree is a mystery.

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MEGAN & AURORA

Megan left Canada in 2003 to study art in the UK. Megan chose to move to England because of its rich art history and reputation for supporting the arts and artists.  Life here is very different from the rural Canadian region where she grew up. The frozen rivers, land-locked lakes, and violent thunderstorms of the Canadian landscape play an underlying role in her art.

Megan and Aurora are photographed beside the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in Armley. The canal facilitated the movement of heavy industry from the 18th to the 20th Century. Woolen goods from Armley Mill, the largest mill in the world at one time, were exported to North and South America, Europe, and The Far East through Liverpool. Cotton, coal and other goods flowed along the canal back into Lancashire and Yorkshire. 

The canal boats carried not only these imports, but flora and fauna from all of its suppliers as seeds infiltrated the cotton and other goods. Woolen fleeces arrived embedded with seeds including Narrow Leafed Ragwort from South Africa and Himalayan Balsam from India, both of which can be found throughout Yorkshire. 

Animals – including mussels, clinging onto the bottoms of the boats – came to make their homes in the canals and rivers of Leeds. 

Behind Megan and Aurora grows Japanese Knotweed. The plant, now considered a highly invasive weed, was introduced into Britain for ornamental gardens. The waters of the canal and river carry the Knotweed which grows so vigorously that it pushes out local plants.

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Mariam

Mariam left her native Iraq for Germany during the 1990 Gulf War. She is now settled in Leeds. Iraq, a fertile flood plain surrounded by mountains, remains ravaged by years of war. The ancient civilisations of this region gave the world mathematics, science, law, literature and philosophy; the migration of these ideas led to incalculable contributions to world culture and thought. 

A further migration, this time of Mesopotamian art and culture started when thousands of priceless relics were looted from the National Museum of Iraq in 2003. Almost all of these have not been recovered. Ancient artefacts started making their journeys into the market place and were being sold on Ebay almost immediately. 

Mariam, eight months pregnant with her fourth daughter, is photographed at Armley Mills. She stands under a weeping willow, a hybrid tree, a mix of the Peking willow and a European species, the white willow. 

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GALINA

Galina met her now ex-husband through the internet. She left her native Belarus to make a new life in Britain and to give her son an opportunity to study at university. Having had another child in Britain, she now lives with two sons. When Galina arrived in England she didn’t know any Russian-speaking people. Through Park Lane College she met new friends, also from Russia, and they decided to organise a place for their children to meet and speak the language of their mothers. Galina is the chair of The Russian Speakers Group for Children.

Nura, being held here by Galina, is a Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu is one of the oldest breeds of dog, originating in Tibet and bred by temple monks. They are a cross between a Lhasa Apso and a Pekinese, a hybrid like so many plants and animals that have been cultivated by humans. These were the favoured dogs of the Chinese emperors, so prized that their trainers would feed them ground glass rather than have them return home with foreign diplomats. 

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GALINA

Galina met her now ex-husband through the internet. She left her native Belarus to make a new life in Britain and to give her son an opportunity to study at university. Having had another child in Britain, she now lives with two sons. When Galina arrived in England she didn’t know any Russian-speaking people. Through Park Lane College she met new friends, also from Russia, and they decided to organise a place for their children to meet and speak the language of their mothers. Galina is the chair of The Russian Speakers Group for Children.

Nura, being held here by Galina, is a Shih Tzu. The Shih Tzu is one of the oldest breeds of dog, originating in Tibet and bred by temple monks. They are a cross between a Lhasa Apso and a Pekinese, a hybrid like so many plants and animals that have been cultivated by humans. These were the favoured dogs of the Chinese emperors, so prized that their trainers would feed them ground glass rather than have them return home with foreign diplomats. 

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EILEEN

Eileen came to England in 1942 at sixteen years of age. Unable to find work in their native Ireland her brothers and father had already emigrated a few years before. She went straight into a job at the Lewis Clothing Factory in Holbeck, Leeds. The factories were always looking for girls to work; their male workforce, Eileen’s brothers included, were joining the army and heading for Europe to fight the Nazis. 

Eileen, who has seven children, fifteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren, is a devout Catholic and is photographed in Holy Family Catholic Church in Armley, Leeds. 

Christianity arrived in Ireland from Rome in the early- to mid-5th century AD and soon subsumed the indigenous pagan religions. Druid traditions collapsed in the face of the new religion, but also because of famine and plagues due to climate change in 535–536 that had devastating effects worldwide. 

 

Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, was also sixteen years of age when, at the end of the 4th century, he, like Eileen, left his homeland. At that young age he was taken prisoner from his family home in Roman Britain by a group of Irish raiders and held in Ireland as a slave for six years.  After his escape he eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary. He believed that his calling was to convert the Irish to Christianity. 

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CHLOE

Chloe was born in Zhuozhou, China. She left for England with her parents when she was one year old to live near her British father’s family. 

Chloe’s Chinese ornaments carry symbols of luck, happiness and a long life. She is photographed in her home. 

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BETTAN

Bettan left her native Finland in the early seventies to hitchhike and work around Europe. She settled in England in 1976 and has lived in Armley, Leeds for 25 years. She has two children and two grandchildren all living within a mile of the house that she shares with her partner.

Bettan says she feels European, not British. The merging of Europe and influx of Europeans into areas like Armley allows her to feel a sense of belonging without losing her own identity.

Bettan is standing in front of a fox lair. The red fox has the widest geographical range of all carnivores, being found in almost all of the United States, Europe, North Africa, and Asia. In the 17th and 18th centuries European red foxes were introduced to America by British colonists for fox hunting. This was through so-called ‘Acclimatisation Societies’ that sought to introduce plants and animals into the new colonies to make them feel more like home.

The European Reds thrived and infiltrated the American red fox population through more aggressive hunting and breeding. Traits of the European Red eventually pervaded the genepool, leaving European and American foxes virtually identical.

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