Ely Cathedral exhibition highlights modern slavery and human trafficking

Hiding in plain sight, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas.

Sara Shamma's modern slavery exhibition at Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel: Hiding in plain sight, 2019. Oil and acrylic on canvas. - Credit: SARA SHAMMA

An exhibition of paintings focussing on modern slavery will go on display in Ely Cathedral’s Lady Chapel this month.

Featuring work created by London-based Syrian artist Sara Shamma, the showcase started as her personal response to the plight of enslaved Yazidi women and girls.

Having become aware of the display and sale of women and girls in slave markets in Syria and Iraq, Shamma was moved to explore this.

She also aimed to draw attention to the psychological effect of modern slavery.

Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel is hosting an exhibition by London-based Syrian artist Sara Shamma.

Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel is hosting an exhibition of modern slavery paintings created by London-based Syrian artist Sara Shamma. - Credit: ELY CATHEDRAL

The impact of this inspired her academic research work (including interviews with women who have experienced modern slavery) on survival, endurance and recovery.

She focussed on these issues during her 2019 residency at King's College, London, based within the Institue of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN), in partnership with Dr Sian Oram and the Helen Bamber Foundation.


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Ely Cathedral’s canon Jessica Martin said: "The Lady Chapel is a fitting space for a body of work exploring vulnerability, violence and resilience in the female body.

Sara Shamma's modern slavery exhibition at Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel: In & out, 2019, oil on canvas.

Sara Shamma's modern slavery exhibition at Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel: In & out, 2019, oil on canvas. - Credit: SARA SHAMMA

"It is dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary, yet shows in its stone sculpture all the scars and damage of the Reformation iconoclasts, who left almost no image of the human body within it undamaged”.

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The 13 paintings and oil sketches, some as large as 2.5 metres, depict thought-provoking images as a way of drawing attention to the global issue.

It is estimated that human trafficking and modern slavery impacts around 40 million people worldwide.

Sara Shamma's modern slavery exhibition at Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel: The Fall, 2019, oil on canvas.

Sara Shamma's modern slavery exhibition at Ely Cathedral's Lady Chapel: The Fall, 2019, oil on canvas. - Credit: SARA SHAMMA

The exhibition runs from October 7-31 and coincides with Anti-Slavery Day on October 18.

There will also be two lectures on the issue - one by the artist herself (October 6) and another by the author and broadcaster Louise Hulland (October 11).

Members of the local WI and Mother’s Union groups will also be running a modern slavery craft exhibition where members of the public are invited to make a chain or links from wool and other fabrics.

Further information about the exhibition, the artist and the lectures can be found online at www.elycathedral.org

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